Will the Los Angeles Dodgers party like it’s 1988 this season?
Baseball writers everywhere have already been naysayers about the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite signing the best free agent pitcher this offseason and adding the best foreign pitcher, “experts” have been saying that now all of the pressure is squarely on the Dodgers.
The Dodgers, folks say, have everything to lose by having a team payroll of more than $200 million. Can the Dodgers stay healthy? Can all of the new egos learn to co-exist in Los Angeles after being stars elsewhere?
I’m not a Los Angeles fan who wears Dodger Blue blinders. I am a realist when it comes to the Dodgers, and I try to look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses when assessing things.
I’ve suffered through 24 years of mediocrity with my Boys in Blue, so I don’t jump on the winning bandwagon easily.
This year is different, though.
You can say you heard it here first. You can give me the credit that will be due in October when the Dodgers reach the Promised Land. I am a believer.
I’m all-in on the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. I’m putting all my money in and am lettin’ it ride!
Why? Well, there is no drug testing here at Through The Fence Baseball, so you’ll just have to take my word that I’m clean. I’m not writing with a performance-enhanced pencil and I didn’t douse my computer keyboard with deer antler spray.
Here is why I think the Dodgers are the real deal this season:
1. Because Matt Kemp doesn’t have to be Superman any longer – Last season, Kemp went through the month of April like Beyonce’s name through Illuminati rumor boards. Kemp torched April for 12 homers and 25 RBIs. However, he only hit 11 more homers in May, June, July, August and September because of injury and because he had as much protection in the lineup as a box of donuts in a police station. Besides Andre Ethier’s 20 homers, no one else on the Dodgers even remotely resembled a power threat. Now the Dodgers have power bats in the form of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to help alleviate some of the pressure on Kemp.
2. Because Clayton Kershaw finally has some help in the rotation – Kershaw had a “down” year in 2012, yet he still led the Dodgers in wins, ERA, strikeouts and WHIP. Last season’s rotation was Kershaw and a bunch of guys who didn’t strike fear in the hearts of opposing batters. Now, once Kershaw has done his business at the top of the rotation, he doesn’t have to sit in the dugout and watch the pitching wheels fall off the bus. Helping Kershaw out will be Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Greinke is so good that he won the AL Cy Young Award in in 2009 with the Kansas City Royals. Winning a Cy Young while pitching for the Royals is akin to winning the Indy 500 on a moped! Greinke has won 31 games and only lost 11 over the past two seasons. Beckett isn’t in the prime of his career any longer, but he’s only 32 years old and can still bring it. Beckett is a former 20-game winner who has averaged 8.3 strikeouts every nine innings over his 12-year career. Hyun-jin may be a rookie in MLB, but he is a 25-year-old veteran of Korean pro ball. Ryu is a seven-time Korean All-Star and won the league’s strikeout title five times between 2006 and 2012.
3. Because the Dodgers finally have some left-handed power – For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of attending a game at beautiful Dodger Stadium, the right-field fence is about as tall as Mini Me and is only 330 feet from home plate. Any left-handed hitter with a modicum of power who plays 81 games at Dodger Stadium should be able to pile up some nice home run stats. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Ethier has been the only lefty power bat on the team. That has changed with the addition of Gonzalez at first base and (hopefully!) a healthy Crawford in left field. In seven full MLB seasons, Gonzalez has hit 206 homers, an average of almost 30 per year. Crawford is a big question mark in recovering from injury, but he should be able to be counted on to hit at least 20 homers and drive in 70 to 90 RBIs if he stays healthy this season.
4. Because the Dodgers have a solid bench – Role players never garner the proper attention on a baseball team, but they play a vital role. Pinch-hitters, and players who can come in and play when starters get injured, are a big part of any successful team. This year’s bench may be one of the best in quite some time for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jerry Hairston, Jr. is a gamer who can play almost any position on the field except catcher. Hairston is a good fielder and a guy who can work a count to help tire out pitchers late in a game. The biggest key to the Dodgers’ bench in 2013 is Skip Schumaker. Schumaker arrived from the Cardinals this offseason, and he is another guy who can step in at multiple positions and cause headaches for pitchers. Over his eight-year career, Schumaker has amassed a .981 fielding percentage and a .345 on-base percentage.