The 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers season has almost been a mirror image of 2013’s memorable campaign.
On June 21, 2013, the Dodgers found themselves 9.5 games behind the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
On June 9, 2014, the Dodgers found themselves 9.5 games behind the division leading San Francisco Giants.
The 2014 Dodgers already have a head start on the 2013 ball club. In 2013, the Dodgers were 47-47 at the all-star break, 2.5 games behind the Diamondbacks. This season, the Dodgers reached the all-star break at 54-43, a game ahead of the Giants for first in the West.
The 2013 Dodgers went on a historic 42-8 run in the second half and finished the season 92-70. The Dodgers won the West by 11 games and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
What is in store for the second half in 2014? Here are some predictions for the second half.
1. The Dodgers will not go on another 42-8 run…
I know, super bold right? Last years run was incredible. It was sparked by the emergence of Yasiel Puig, but health also played a huge factor. Hanley Ramirez was finally healthy- and he was destroying the baseball. The Dodgers were also incredibly lucky. One game in the streak stands out as a moment of “the Dodgers are probably never going to lose another game”.
An August 9th interleague game against the Tampa Bay Rays. David Price on the hill for the Rays, Chris Capuano for the Dodgers. That part of the game went as expected. Price shut the Dodgers down, yielding one unearned run in seven innings. Capuano Capuano’d all over the place, giving up six runs in 4.1 innings. Hope seemed lost, but these scrappy Dodgers started fighting back against the bullpen. They cut the lead to 6-3 headed into the ninth inning.
The ninth inning then somehow happened. Mark Ellis had an RBI triple. Nick Punto had an RBI double, and was driven in by Adrian Gonzalez to tie the game at six. All against the Rays former closer Fernando Rodney, who was an All-Star this year.
With runners on first and second and one out, Rodney finally did his job. He got Jerry Hairston Jr. to tap back to him to start a 1-4-3 double play. Except that Rodney forgot how to throw the ball, and it sailed into center field. Adrian Gonzalez, who will NEVER be mistaken for Speedy, scored from second (another tiny miracle), and the Dodgers had themselves a 7-6 victory.
The Dodgers could do no wrong last season. 42-8 has only happened three times in baseball history, and last years was the first time since the 1940’s. The Dodgers are only 15-20 against winning teams this season, and 26 of their first 29 games after the break are against winning teams. It’s a much tougher road for the Dodgers beginning now.
2. …But the Dodgers will still win the West by at least seven games.
This shouldn’t really be all that bold of a prediction. The Dodgers are by far the most talented team in the West. That’s not a knock on the Giants, but the Dodgers front office has been great the last few years. They have added talent and kept key prospects. The Dodgers pitching is insane. Their starting pitchers have a combined 3.08 ERA, which is best in baseball. Three Dodgers pitchers have ERA’s under 3.00, including Clayton Kershaw, who has been unreal outside of one bad start in Arizona that we don’t talk about.
On the other side of things are the Giants, who started off the season strong. Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner are more than holding their own, but pretty much their whole offense has been nonexistent in the last month. Tim Hudson has regressed slightly, Matt Cain and Sergio Romo have been awful, and the team is just in a huge funk. They just don’t have the talent to keep up with the Dodgers. But they have chemistry.
3. Joc Pederson becomes the center fielder.
Currently, the Dodgers have five outfielder battling for three spots. Puig is cemented in right field, so it’s basically four outfielders for two spots. Unfortunately, none of them can play center field well. Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke take good routes and get good jumps on balls, but lack arm strength and athleticism to play center field. Matt Kemp is much more athletic than either of those two, but gets horrible reads on balls and takes wild routes. Carl Crawford plays a solid defensive outfield, but has no arm. All four would be better suited for the corners, and it seems like Kemp and Crawford will be splitting time in left. Ethier and Van Slyke have been platooning in center, but that should change.
The Dodgers need to make some moves to free up center for the 22-year old Pederson. Pederson is tearing up AAA with a .323 average and 17 home runs. He strikes out 28 percent of the time which is alarming, but he should provide stable defense in center.
Moving one or two of the four outfielders could help boost the Dodgers bullpen. To trade Ethier, Crawford or Kemp, the Dodgers will need to eat a lot of money, but that shouldn’t matter to this team. If they are serious about winning, all egos need to be pushed aside and they need to get rid of the dead weight on the team.
4. The Dodgers don’t make a blockbuster trade.
With the seemingly empty pockets of the Dodgers ownership, it seems like they are mentioned as potential destinations for every big name on the trade block. David Price, John Lester and basically all of the Philadelphia Phillies have been the subject of trade rumors.
However, Ned Colletti has shown unwillingness to trade key prospects. Sure, he traded then-prospect Carlos Santana for Casey Blake, and traded Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster in the Nick Punto trade. However, it seems like Colletti is much less willing to part with Pederson or Corey Seager. Pederson could become a star, and Seager could be the best Dodgers third baseman since Adrian Beltre. I predict that neither of them will be moved by the trade deadline.
This doesn’t mean the Dodgers won’t make a splash or two before the July 31st deadline. They’ll probably move an outfielder or two. Zach Lee might be moved. But it won’t be for the big name. It might be for a good bullpen guy like Jonathon Papelbon, or even as huge as Koji Uehara, but I don’t think the Dodgers make a franchise-altering trade this season.