I should probably give a disclaimer here. Being only 14 games into the season, there’s really no way to come to any real conclusion about anything. However, there’s always going to be quick takes, first reactions, and initial feelings to anything. The Dodgers 2017 season is no different.
Just over two weeks into the new baseball year, I’ve seen things that I like and things I don’t. Below, I’ve listed 10 of each, with explanations on why. Again, it’s early, and these are just quick, initial reactions so far. Some of these I suspect will change. Others most certainly will not. This is my disclaimer.
10 Positives So Far:
1. Playing the San Diego Padres: I mean, two years in a row now the Dodgers have started their year by playing a series with the Padres. I like the results. Can we just make this a new policy to begin every year?
2. Clayton Kershaw: He’s still good at throwing baseballs. Very good.
3. Back-end of the rotation: Coming into the year, there were some questions about how guys like Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu were going to fare. Health for one, but also how effective they were going to be, even if healthy. So far, both have performed pretty well, particularly McCarthy. He’s allowed only four ER over his first three starts, throwing six solid innings his first two times out. Ryu hasn’t been as solid, although he’s drawn two pretty tough match ups, one on the road against the World Champion Chicago Cubs and the other in the notoriously bad Coors Field. He took the loss in each start, but his stuff seems to be coming around and if he can fine tune it a bit, he should continue to improve. If he doesn’t, there’s plenty of options to replace him.
4. Bullpen: This group has held up their end of the bargain so far. Having to live up to last year’s performance wasn’t going to be easy, and I admit, I was a little skeptical. But so far, so good.
5. Flexibility of Alex Wood & Ross Stripling: Two of the big reasons for the bullpen’s success has been these two guys. Stripling has been outstanding so far this season. Wood also looks good, and his spot start in place of Rich Hill should give the Dodgers confidence that he can fill that role again, if needed. Both player’s ability to provide long relief, or start if needed, is a valuable attribute for the club.
6. Andrew Toles’s bat: The guy can flat out hit. The one thing I’d like to see more from Toles though is better patience at the plate, especially for a leadoff hitter. If he could get himself into some better counts, he’d probably get more good pitches to drive. Man, can the guy hit though.
7. Having Corey Seager as the Dodgers shortstop: Duh, right? A sophomore slump doesn’t seem likely for the reigning ROY, and I’d go out on a limb and say that Seager will continue to be one of the best players on the Dodgers team for a long time.
8. Justin Turner being perhaps the best all-around hitter on the team: Never would have thought this could be the case when the Dodgers signed Turner to be a utility/role player a few years back. Although he’s yet to find his power stroke this year, he still leads the team in hitting, batting .370. This could be his year to finally become an All-Star.
9. Jackie Robinson statue in front of Dodgers stadium: I mean, it’s about time, right? Let’s hope a Koufax statue is next.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 15, 2017
10. Minor leaguers: If you don’t follow the Dodgers minor league affiliates, start. The Dodgers currently have a plethora of very good players at the minor league level, and it’s nice to watch them develop. Top prospects like Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, and Willie Calhoun all look like stars in the making (not to mention Julio Urias, who will definitely be coming up to the team in due time.) They also have guys like Rob Segedin, Chris Taylor, O’Koyea Dickson, Adam Liberatore, Trevor Oaks, among others, who appear primed and ready to make the big league club if/when they get the call. And that’s just at the AAA level. Checking out the daily box score for the OKC Dodgers, Tulsa Drillers and Rancho Quakes has been fun.
10 Negatives So Far:
1. Playing any other team than the SD Padres: It’s definitely not as cool as playing the Padres.
2. Chris Hatcher still being on the roster: Maybe that’s too harsh or blunt for some, but it’s the truth. Every time I think there may be a shot the Dodgers could part ways with Hatcher, another player heads to the DL, or gets sent down. Though his results have been acceptable thus far, it’s hard to trust him given his history and he probably shouldn’t have made the roster to begin with. For the most part, the Dodgers haven’t been utilizing him in high leverage situations yet, and that may be a good thing.
3. Blisters: I hate them.
4. Left-Handed Pitching: Although it hasn’t been a 2016 type struggle just yet, this will continue to be somewhat of an issue until the Dodgers truly start hammering lefties. On Saturday, the Dodgers notched three earned runs against Diamondback’s starter Patrick Corbin, but haven’t had much success overall so far this year. Small sample size, I know. But given their struggles last season, any problems they have with southpaws this year will be magnified… and rightfully so.
5. Platoons: I’m not totally against platoons and actually agree that some were probably a good idea this year (left field for example.) However, at some point you have to stop if it’s not working. “Lefty mashers” Scott Van Slyke (.125/.300/.188 w/ 0 HR) and Kike Hernandez (.235/.316/.588 w/ 1 HR) haven’t exactly been that so far, yet they keep getting starts when the Dodgers face a southpaw. Maybe if the Dodgers had a healthy Franklin Guterriez. Or maybe if Trayce Thomspon didn’t look so uncomfortable at the plate before being sent back down to AAA. Neither is the case right now though, which is why I think the Dodgers should re-think their platoon idea.
6. Adrian Gonzalez’s power: Is it still there? No doubt, he’s still a good hitter, but this year’s lack of power coming on the tails of last year’s power decline makes you wonder.
7. Losing to the Cubs: After sitting through what seemed like days of ceremonies before each game in Chicago, losing 2 of 3 to the Cubs didn’t sit too well with many fans, especially when you consider that’s where the Dodgers ended their season last year. It would have been nice to send the defending champs a little message to start the year, but there’s little doubt that these are still two of the better teams in the league. The Dodgers had some chances, but didn’t capitalize on them during the series. Speaking of which…
8. Blown opportunities on offense: The Dodgers were a horrific 1-21 w/ RISP against the Cubs last week, and so far this year they’ve allowed plenty of scoring opportunities to slip by without taking advantage. Watching them get runners on and in scoring position with less than two outs, only to see them continually fail to get them in, is very difficult to watch.
9. Better options remaining in the minors: After great spring performances from guys like Rob Segedin, Chris Taylor, and O’Koyea Dickson, a case could be made that any of those players should have claimed a roster spot. Two weeks into the season, that case has only been strengthened. These guys are putting up very good numbers in Oklahoma City, yet no calls have been made to replace a struggling Van Slyke or Hernandez. And although it’s still early this year, the struggles of Van Slyke and Hernandez seem to be a continuation from last year. One has to wonder what more needs to happen before some sort of move is made.
10. No Vin Scully: I mean, I didn’t need two weeks to tell you this. Heck, I didn’t need a single game. We all knew we’d miss Vinny more than could be described. Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser do an outstanding job, but there’s no question that Dodgers baseball without Scully will never be the same.