With a payroll of nearly $240 million, the Los Angeles Dodgers came into the season with astronomical expectations. Bovada gave the Dodgers 13/2 odds of winning the World Series, the best odds in baseball.
However if the season ended today, the Dodgers would be on the outside looking in, with the $47 million payroll of the Miami Marlins owning the last wild card spot.
Obviously, things have not gone very well in Los Angeles. With a 31-30 record, the Dodgers have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball. The 2014 Dodgers are one of the most consistently inconsistent teams I’ve ever seen.
On Saturday, the Dodgers lit up Pittsburgh starter Brandon Cumpton in a 12-2 victory. Four days later, the Dodgers were 2-hit by White Sox starter John Danks. The Dodgers have the third worst home winning percentage in baseball, only ahead two last place teams, Arizona and Philadelphia.
The Dodgers offense has definitely had some high points. Yasiel Puig has improved from last year, which is a terrifying thought for opposing teams. His .340 batting average is the second highest in baseball only behind Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki.
Dee Gordon came into the season as a huge, skinny question mark at second base. Even though Gordon had a rough May, his 35 stolen bases are more than 17 teams have all season.
The rest of the offense has been a huge disappointment. Hanley Ramirez is hitting .253 in a contract year. Adrian Gonzalez started hot, but is now hitting .259. Matt Kemp is hitting .238. The team offense is ranked in the top-10 in most categories, but can never seem to put it all together consistently. After the 12-run outburst against Pittsburgh, the Dodgers scored 10 runs in the next four games, five of which came in one game.
There has to be a slight handicap here, with Gold Glove caliber players Juan Uribe and A.J Ellis missing a good portion of the year. However, only five teams have made more errors than the Dodgers. Ellis’ replacement, Drew Butera, is supposed to be a defensive specialist behind the plate and has a 1.000 fielding percentage, but currently leads baseball with seven passed balls.
The outfield has also been a hot mess defensively. Puig has played a phenomenal right field, but will still make a costly mental mistake from time to time. Kemp was playing poorly defensively in center and was replaced by Andre Ethier, who takes better routes and is more steady. However, Ethier has poor range and a much worse throwing arm than Kemp. Unlike most teams, the Dodgers center fielder is the least athletic of all the outfielders.
STARTING PITCHING- B+
The strength of the Dodgers has been the starting pitching, which should really be a surprise to no one. It took a while to get healthy enough for Paul Maholm not to get the ball every five days, but a healthy Dodgers rotation is arguably the best in baseball. The highest ERA among Dodger starters is Dan Haren with a 3.50 ERA. Zack Greinke has been pitching like an ace, despite his streak of under two earned runs was snapped last week.
Clayton Kershaw has been pitching like a human, but has still given up three or less runs in six of his seven starts. Josh Beckett somehow has a 2.57 ERA, definitely aided by his no-hitter against Philadelphia. The starting rotation has been great all season, but unfortunately only have one complete game all season, which means the bullpen has been pitching a lot.
Coming into the season, I thought the Dodgers could have a potentially all-time great bullpen. With four guys that have been full-time closers in the past, the Dodgers were supposed to be impossible to beat after the seventh inning.
Brian Wilson has been horrible this season after being lights out last season for the Dodgers. After a scoreless inning Wednesday night, his ERA dropped to 6.41 and his WHIP dropped to 1.93, both of which are atrocious numbers. Kenley Jansen is tied for third in baseball in saves, but has had to pitch out of jams more than he should. Fans shouldn’t be worried about Jansen, as his .400 BABIP suggests he has been incredibly unlucky in 2014.
Brandon League has been the biggest surprise in the bullpen. He was booed relentlessly in his first few outings after a horrible 2013, and many fans were wondering how he still had a job. League’s 2.10 ERA is the second lowest on the team behind J.P. Howell and recently had a streak of 22 consecutive shutout innings. Despite this, the bullpen has been a huge problem spot for the Dodgers.
I’ve never been a fan of Don Mattingly, and he hasn’t done much to change my mind this season. I respected him for benching Puig for showing up late on Opening Day, and he had handled the four outfielder situation reasonably well until recently. Kemp had a rough defensive series against the Mets, and Mattingly responded by benching Kemp for the next five games while Kemp worked at left field. Luckily for Kemp, Carl Crawford hurt himself fielding a ball, or who knows how long Kemp would have been riding the pine.
At the time of the Mets game, Kemp was hitting .265. For a guy coming off two years of a variety of injuries, consistent at-bats are important. Kemp’s average has dropped nearly 30 points in the eight games since returning from exile, which can be credited to Mattingly.
Don has also been too stubborn to admit mistakes. He is still trotting out Brian Wilson and Chris Perez in close games, only to see them give up runs and get booed off the mound.
If the Dodgers didn’t go on a historic 42-8 run last year, Mattingly probably would have been out of a job. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, another 42-8 run is pretty unlikely. No matter how unlucky a team has been, there is no reason for a team with this many good players to be hovering around .500 baseball. Even though there’s still 101 games left in the season, at 8.5 games behind the Giants (stupid even years), the Dodgers need to turn something around fast if they’re going to compete. Baseball Prospectus is still giving the Dodgers a 76 percent chance of making the playoffs, but Dodger fans can no longer say “it’s only May we’ll be fine”.