CHICAGO, October 18, 2013 — In 2012, the Dodgers made big moves by acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford while finishing the season 86-76. This year the Dodgers improved to 92-70 and won the NL West by 11 games. The Dodgers could not get past the Cardinals, however, losing in six games in the NLCS. So now, it is time to say better luck next year to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What Went Right: It all begins with starting pitching for the Dodgers. Their starters posted a MLB low 3.13 ERA this season. The staff was led by Clayton Kershaw, the likely NL Cy Young winner, who posted the best season of his young career, he is still just 25. Kershaw posted a 194 ERA+ in his 236 innings while striking out 25.6% of the batters he faced, near his career average, and walked a career low 5.3% of the batters he faced. This will likely be Kershaw’s second Cy Young, he finished second last year in Cy Young voting, with more likely to come.
Following Kershaw in the rotation was the Dodgers’ big offseason acquisition, Zack Greinke. Although Greinke missed time due to an injury caused by his encounter with Carlos Quentin he logged 177.2 innings with an ERA+ of 135, which was the second best of his career. Greinke’s peripherals were in line with his career numbers and will again form a formidable top of the rotation next year with Kershaw.
The Dodgers eventually figured out that Kenley Jansen is better than Brandon League as well this year. Jansen rewarded them by converting 88% of his saves, striking out 38% of the batters he faced and walking a career low 6.2% of the batters he faced.
At the plate, much of the media attention focused on Yasiel Puig, who had a good rookie year. Puig posted a .319/.391/.534 slash line, good for an OPS+ of 160, and provided 5.0 WAR. It will be interesting to watch Puig next year as he did benefit from a .383 BABIP in 2013 but is very fast so he may not see a huge drop-off.
The true offensive MVP for the Dodgers, however, was Hanley Ramirez, who had a .345/.402/.638 line, good for a 190 OPS+, and provided 5.4 WAR. Ramirez will be a free agent after next year, as will Clayton Kershaw, but with the Dodgers’ new ownership spending big to improve the team, he is likely to be offered a large contract.
Finally, the Dodgers’ farm system entered the season ranked 19th, but saw players like Cory Seager, Joc Pederson and Zach Lee continue to develop. The Dodgers could utilize these players to either help the big league club in the future or send them elsewhere in a trade for a proven player like David Price.
What Went Wrong: At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of discussion about the Dodgers having too much pitching, but as the saying goes, “You can never have enough pitching.” The Dodgers saw injuries take away or reduce the effectiveness of not only Zack Greinke for a bit, but also Josh Beckett, Ted Liily and Chris Capuano for extended periods. Josh Beckett, who came over in the Nick Punto trade, made just eight starts in 2013 before having surgery to remove pressure on a nerve to regain feeling in his pitching hand. Beckett should return to the rotation next year, but will be entering his age 34 season.
Ted Lilly made just five starts in 2013 for the Dodgers and was designated for assignment in late July. Capuano did make 20 starts for the Dodgers, but had two stints on the disable list. Capuano was below average in his starts posting an 84 ERA+ and the Dodgers may look elsewhere to fill his spot next year.
Brandon League is under contract for two more years, but has already lost the closer role. League appeared in 58 games and struck out just 11.2% of the batters he faced while walking 6.0%.
Finally, Matt Kemp missed time this year with a variety of injuries including ankle and shoulder injuries. Kemp posted a line of .270/.328/.395, but provided just 0.5 WAR. There have been rumors the Dodgers may look to move Kemp in the offseason, but given his salary they are likely to find few takers and would likely be better off seeing if he can get healthy in the offseason to regain his form from previous years.
What to Look for in 2014: The Dodgers have deep pockets and missing the World Series will likely cause them to spend more. They could be players for Robinson Cano, although they have denied that, David Price or any other big name player that is on the market. The Dodgers have a lot of free agents, but few that cannot be easily replaced. Expect the Dodgers to make another playoff run next year.
Free Agents/Options: Jerry Hairston Jr, JP Howell, Skip Schumaker, Ronald Belisario, Chris Capuano, Ricky Nolasco, Brian Wilson, Mark Ellis, Nick Punto, Juan Uribe, Michael Young, Edinson Volquez, Carlos Marmol
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