The 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers have faced an unspeakable amount of challenges throughout their entire season. Before the year even started, the Arizona Diamondbacks had signed the Dodgers former co-ace Zack Greinke, traded for Shelby Miller and looked to ride a powerful offense to the NL West crown. The Giants signed two of the offseason’s best available starting pitchers in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Oh, and let us not forget that it is an even year.
The front office attempted to add to the injury filled, lackluster rotation, by signing Scott Kazmir and foreign star Kenta Maeda. Heavily criticized by fans and media, the Dodgers were facing what could be a long season if neither of them panned out.
People began to write off the Dodgers before the season even began. By the time Opening Day hit, the Dodgers disabled list had already taken three of their eight starting position players, four starting pitchers, and the man in roster limbo, Alex Guerrero. For the average team, this could cripple their entire season, but due to the fact that the Dodgers front office stocked the organization with major league ready depth, they were ready to face the challenge.
With new manager Dave Roberts not having any previous experience, analysts hinted that 2016 would be a year for the Dodgers to re-tool and prepare for the days of Corey Seager, Julio Urias, and Jose De Leon.
Notable players on DL as of 4/3/16
- Andre Ether, LF
- Howie Kendrick, LF/2B
- Yasmani Grandal, C
- Alex Guerrero, LF
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP
- Brett Anderson, SP
- Brandon McCarthy, SP
- Mike Bolsinger, SP
As the days of April rolled through, the injury bug was not very kind to the team. They lost two more outfielders in Scott Van Slyke and Carl Crawford. Following them later in the month was relief pitcher, Yimi Garcia. While the injuries kept coming, others rose to the challenge of the major leagues. Ross Stripling was given an opportunity out of the blue, and he began to show signs that he could handle life at the highest level. His very first start was one to be remembered, as he took a no-hitter into the late innings against the San Francisco Giants.
Trayce Thompson, who was expected to be an option the Dodgers could pull from the minor leagues throughout the season, was striving. Although the team had not collapsed, not too many were pleased with the month of April. The Dodgers finished with an underwhelming below .500 record, at 12-13.
The month of May hits and the new signing, Kenta Maeda, was pitching out of his skin. His team friendly contract began to look like an offseason steal for Los Angeles. Clayton Kershaw was being Clayton Kershaw, and Rookie of the Year favorite Corey Seager brushed off his April slump and caught fire. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who had not pitched since 2014, was set on a rehab assignment with his sights set on bolstering a relatively weak Dodgers pitching staff. The team showed a significant improvement from their lousy month of April, but it was obvious that the team was still underachieving. The sense that the Dodgers could do better than a 16-12 month of May was highlighted by the monster of a month that the San Francisco Giants had at 21-8.
The rotation, already scraping from the minor league barrel, was forced to dig yet again when Alex Wood was momentarily sidelined with a forearm issue. He was later placed on the disabled list due to the injury. This injury though, at the time seemed like less of a blow because the Dodgers top prospect, 19-year-old Julio Urias, was getting the call up to the big leagues. He faced an extremely tough task as he had to take on the National League champion Mets, on the road. Urias’ debut was not what everyone had dreamed it would be, but he was in the majors, and everyone was excited to see what he could bring.
June started out just how everyone would expect, with another injury to a key player. This time to right fielder, Yasiel Puig. A previous injury hit him once again as he pulled his hamstring while hustling down the first base line. This was one of those “ARE YOU KIDDING ME” moments that every Dodger fan was thinking. Just two days after the Dodgers lost a starting outfielder, they surprisingly designated Carl Crawford for assignment. While this was what most Dodger fans had been waiting for for about a year, it was shocking that the team would dump a player on such an injury riddled roster.
Simultaneously, as moves were being made, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy were both progressing through their rehab. Things had begun to start looking up on the injury front, but times were still tough in Los Angeles because the Giants were rolling through the entire National League.
June 26th, 2016. The day that the Dodgers season ended. The man that had been carrying the team for the first 3 months of the season, Clayton Kershaw injured his back. The team sat 8 full games behind the Giants, and now they were without their best player. The media, fans, and almost anyone that pays attention to the game of baseball wrote of the Dodgers on that very night.
John Kruk announced on Baseball Tonight, “Without Kershaw, they’re done.”
On the first of July, Kershaw and Joc Pederson were both placed on the disabled list because, what is a month for the 2016 Dodgers without putting at least two of your stars on the disabled list? Lost in the shuffle of the big news that Joc and Clayton were injured, was that Kiké Hernandez hit the disabled list as well.
Gasoline was added to the burning fire that was the Dodgers disabled list, when Hyun-Jin Ryu was immediately injured during his one and only start. The team now had a great MLB rotation sitting on their disabled list, in Kershaw, Ryu, Wood, and Anderson.
When the mid-summer classic finally came, the Dodgers sat 6.5 games behind the Giants, who finished the first half of the season as the best team in baseball. There were arguments as to whether or not people should be happy with where the Dodgers were at this time due to the Giants great success and the hoard of Dodger injuries. Either way, to most, the Dodgers were going to be eating the dust of San Francisco for the rest of 2016.
The second half of the season began, and so did the Dodgers slow climb out of the hole they fell into in the National League Western Division. Ah, but not before we add another to the list! Trayce Thompson enters the disabled list frenzy due to lower back irritation.
At this point, it was only July, and the Dodgers were on pace to shatter the record for most players placed on the disabled list in one season. Injuries left the team in need of a big bat and another impact starting pitcher at the trade deadline.
This new front office is known for getting creative. Most were expecting them to pull off some unimaginable three team deal. Maybe even going as far to say that they could bring in one of Sonny Gray or Chris Archer. But in classic Andrew Friedman fashion, he did something nobody thought he would do.
Rich Hill and Josh Reddick are quite the duo, but not what fans and media were expecting. The sense that the Dodgers were not willing to go all in on a big move left questions people wanted answered. At the time, Rich Hill was injured and not prepared to pitch in a big league game. Reddick though, was thrown right into the mix as the everyday right fielder.
In arguably the most shocking move the Dodgers made this season, the team sent down Yasiel Puig to the minor leagues to work on himself as a person. Sending Puig to the minors was something that nobody could have predicted. In a season where it looked like Yasiel was becoming the best person he could be, he was dropped from the roster. At the time, the move made no sense because the Dodgers had been creeping back into contention.
The Giants just came off of their first month of below .500 baseball since April, and the Dodgers had their best at 15-9. Things were actually looking up for them at this point. Or so they thought.
During the month of August, newly acquired Josh Reddick struggled big time. Every line drive was hit right to a fielder. Every pop fly hung up just long enough to be caught. Reddick was feeling the pain of transitioning from the American League. At this same time, Rich Hill’s blister injury was not recovering as well as expected.
August continued to be rough for the Dodgers when both Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, both coming off injuries, went back on the disabled list. “TBD” had become two-fifths of the Dodgers starting rotation. Every week Dave Roberts had to make decisions nobody would ever want to make.
As if the season had not been enough of an emotional rollercoaster for every fan, player, or coach of the Dodgers, on August 25th, the Dodgers longest tenured player in the organization, A.J. Ellis, was traded to the Phillies for Carlos Ruiz. The stir caused from this trade brought quite the range of opinions. Some were saying it was smart to bring in a better bat. Most were just crushed that A.J. would be forced to pack his bags and be sent off to Philadelphia.
Despite another rough month of transactions and TBDs, the Dodgers forced their way back into first place at the end of August. The Giants had begun their full collapse and the Dodgers were taking advantage of it. Contributions kept coming from the unlikeliest of players. New call ups Andrew Toles and Rob Segedin were providing key hits to win games on multiple occasions. Nobody knew who these men were when the season started and now they are helping in the middle of a playoff race.
The Giants were looking worse, day by day. The exact opposite could be said about the Dodgers. Health was finding its way back to Los Angeles. Healthy veterans combined with young stars breaking out is what held together the team in the dog days of August and September. Jose De Leon joined Julio Urias in the Dodgers rotation and just days later, Clayton Kershaw re-entered the fray.
Fast forward to September 25th, and the Dodgers have a chance to clinch the National League West. On Vin Scully Day, in fact. On this day, there were 7 games left in the season. SEVEN. And they had a chance to clinch! this is the exact same team that was 8 games back on June 26th. The team that was written off by everyone. Even their own fans. In what seemed to be the hardest, most draining Dodgers season in recent memory, they did it. Corey Seager hit the game tying shot in the 9th. They won it on a Charlie Culberson walk-off home run. On Vin Scully Day. They clinched the west.
The 2016 Dodgers can be described in many ways. The team that was 8 games back in June. The team that lost Kershaw for 2.5 months. The team that broke the disabled list record. The team that should not have, but did it anyway. Whatever you want to call them, they are division winners and nobody can take that away from them.