Last year, at the all-star break, the Dodgers lead the National League West by 1.5 games, their record sitting at 51-39. In second place were the bitter rivals from the north, the San Francisco Giants, their record being 46-43. A year later, a glance at today’s standings will tell you two things; A) thing have changed, and we are now chasing the Giants, currently 6.5 games out of first, and B) the Giants currently have the best record in baseball, a feat anyone inside and outside of Chicago thought impossible not even 10 days ago.
We’ve already compared the infield and outfield to each other, so now let’s take a look at the catchers, starting pitching, and bullpen!
Yasmani Grandal/AJ Ellis:
Well, Yasmani must have seen this piece coming, because he went nutso 3 days before the all-star break, going 5-5 with 3hr’s in one game. Maybe we could create some kind of Groundhog Day type vortex that follows Grandal around; every day turns out to be Friday, July 8th, 2016. That would be awesome. It’s no secret the main reason AJ Ellis continues to have a roster spot on the Dodgers is because he’s Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher. AJ can come up with some clutch hits from time to time, and is a good backstop, but catcher is a position of dire need for the Dodgers and has been all year; that speaks volumes.
The all American hero, Buster Posey. Rumor has it, he can cure migraines with a wink, cause clouds to scurry with a glance at the sky, and once saved a lady from being hit by a bus by simply flexing his bicep. His baseball accolades are fairly unworldly as well; hitting .292 with 11hr, and 42rbi don’t jump off the screen, but his fielding percentage of 1.000 does. Uh. Yeah, I checked it. Double checked it. Triple double checked it. Unfortunately, it’s real. The guy is one of the best catchers in the game (yeah, I said it Cards fans), and his all-star nod is a worthy privilege. Advantage: ….Giants
Clayton Kershaw / Kenta Maeda / Scott Kazmir / Alex Wood / Ross Stripling / Julio Urias:
Quick! Who can tell me the Dodger pitcher with the most starts at the all-star break? Time!!! It’s a tie between Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir, both at 18 games started. Our lord and savior Clayton Kershaw sits at 16, not too far back, until you realize that he should have about 20 starts so far this year; and, say, 13 or so wins, which could make all the difference in the division race this year.
Clayton Kershaw has won 3 Cy Young awards in a row, is the reigning MVP, and clearly walks on water. As hard as it is to believe, he was actually doing better this year, numbers wise, before landing on the disabled list with a herniated disk, a miniscule 1.79 ERA, a whopping 10.79 K/9 and a disgusting WHIP of .73.
When it became clear the Dodgers were not going to be able to resign Zack Greinke, the front office offered Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir as replacements, implying that the fiscal savings will outweigh the quality starts by ZG. Kenta started out well, going 3-1 in April with a 1.79 ERA, coming back down to earth in May, going 1-2 with a 5.04 ERA, and has settled into a groove in June, going 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA. Scott Kazmir’s record is 7-3, and at first glance, it’s easy to assume he’s been a steal. However, he has been the beneficiary of multiple run leads ie. April 10, up 5-0 in the 1st, ) and lost the lead and the game.
The combination of Maeda and Kazmir, to date, haven’t really lived up to the gigantic shoes left by Zack Greinke, but that was a long shot anyway. The theory passed along to the fanbase was that we could achieve as a group what Zack brought individually. Well, still waiting for that to happen. Julio Urias has proven that he belongs in the bigs at 19 years of age; however, the front office has a hard cap for his innings pitched for the calendar year, and even though I think he would be a great asset in the rotation moving forward, I would rather have him around for another 10 years, so I’ll accept his demotion back to triple A.
Madison Bumgarner / Johnny Cueto / Jeff Samardzija / Jake Peavy / Matt Cain:
Madison Bumgarner has done his share of heavy lifting for the Giants. Not only is he a devastating starting pitcher, but he likes to hit homers off Clayton Kershaw, and recently hit for himself in an American league park, thus being the designated hitter. World Series MVP’s get to do that, and Madison has the credentials to back that up. Johnny Cueto, the best free agent starter not named Zack, decided San Francisco was going to be his new home, and what a start to his stay there. At the all-star break, his record is an obnoxious 13-1, with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP, complete ace stats for any club outside of San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Jeff Samardzija hasn’t really been awful, per-se, going 9-5 with a 3.91 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, but as a #3 starter, that’s outstanding. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain round out the starting 5, and, to be honest, could roll the ball up to the plate for 5 innings every 5 days, and San Francisco would still get the nod in this comparison. Advantage: San Francisco Bumgarners
Kenley Jansen / Joe Blanton / Pedro Baez / Chris Hatcher / Luis Coleman / Casey Fien / Adam Liberatore / JP Howell:
There seems to constantly be one facet of the game that the Dodgers cannot synchronize with the rest of the team. If the starting pitching is on fire, the bats disappear. If the offense wakes up, the starters start throwing batting practice. In the postseason, this issue becomes magnified, and the single biggest area of concern for the Dodgers was the bullpen. The running gag was we were going to kill the power in the stadium once the starter comes out, and rig all the scoreboards to show the 9th inning, so we could go from starter to Kenley. KJ has proven to be one of the best closers in the game, and after his first all-star nod, it setting himself up for quite the payday.
Third in the pen in innings pitched with 38.2, his 1.16 ERA, 27 saves and microscopic .65 WHIP means he gets out there and deals. Joe Blanton leads the pen with 43 games played, 2.09 ERA and a .74 WHIP. Adam Liberatore recently set a club record with 24 consecutive scoreless innings, bettering John Candelaria in 1991.
Josh Osich / Cory Gearrin / Hunter Strickland / Javier Lopez / Santiago Casilla / Derek Law / George Kontos:
Funny how things turn around; not long ago, the strength of the Giants pitching was their bullpen. Peavy only goes 4? No worries!! We’ll throw Petit, Affeldt and Kontos at them, and then our closer Casilla will finish them off. This year, things are a bit different. As we just learned, the Giants really have 2 aces in Bumgarner and Cueto, and Samardzjia isn’t too shabby as a #3. The trickle-down effect is that they’ve leaned on their pen much less this year, and at the all-star break, the numbers reflect that. Santiago Casilla had 38 saves last year, and is on pace to break that with 21 already at the break. Osich leads the pack at 43 games played, and Casilla leads them in both K/9 11.42, and ERA, 2.86. Advantage: Dodgers
The Dodgers have won the National League West for 3 years in a row. The San Francisco Giants have won world championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The accomplishment of winning the division is no small feat, but if our rivals up north have taught us anything, it’s that there are bigger prizes to be won. Bit by bit, and piece by piece, the Dodgers have the talent…it’s all just a matter of putting it together. I think it’s safe to say that all involved would rather be the wild card team and win the World Series than another NL West title.
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