During a recent video on 120 Sports where they profiled certain teams and talk about how they might do this upcoming season, a surprising thing was uttered. That thing? The Los Angeles Dodgers might overperform in 2016.

It seems a little crazy to suggest that a team who won 92 games last season, and just watched one of their two best starting pitchers leave the team, will actually overachieve the following season, but it does seem quite possible when you dive into it.

ICYMI: Could Dodgers Look To Trade One Of Their Starting Pitchers?

As of this second, FanGraphs projects the Dodgers to win 90 games in 2016, just two wins down from their 2015 mark. However, it should be noted that actually going over the 90 wins isn’t exactly implausible.

It all starts with a couple things. First, health. Last season, the Dodgers lost 1196 man games due to injury. Meaning, all the players injured missed 1196 games combined.  That was the fifth most amount of games any team missed in 2015. This coming season should be one of relatively better health.

Namely, the Dodgers are going to get Hyun-jin Ryu back from his shoulder injury, as well as Brandon McCarthy from his Tommy John surgery. On top of those two, Justin Turner missed time due to knee issues and other calamities. He recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason.

Right fielder Yasiel Puig missed a lot of time in 2015 due to various ailments, as did second baseman Howie Kendrick. With Kendrick likely not returning to the team, you can remove him from the 2016 equation, but his time missed was still a major blow.

A lot of these players should be relatively healthy going into 2016, and should perform better when at full health. That leads us to the second reason why they might overachieve: progression to the mean.

This namely applies to the aforementioned Puig. Due to his injuries and time away, his 2015 season was one of below-average production. During his 2013 rookie season, the energetic Cuban import compiled 4.1 Wins Above Replacement in just 104 games. In 2014, he put up 5.3 WAR in 148 games. Last season, though, he only managed 1.5 WAR over 79 games and 311 plate appearances. Getting Puig back to that 4-5 WAR level is a major boon to the team.

Jon SooHoo-Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo-Los Angeles Dodgers

The third reason the Dodgers could definitely overachieve next season is directly tied to their young core of players. Joc Pederson took the league by storm in the first half of 2015 only to struggle in the second half. If he’s able to level out his swing a little more, then perhaps a return to his first half prominence is in store.

That leads us to rookie shortstop Corey Seager. In a lot of ways, this is also addition by subtraction. Jimmy Rollins was bad last season. He was miserable at the plate (.283 wOBA) and miserable in the field (-7 Defensive Runs Saved). Seager is already a clear upgrade, and he even showed it in limited time at the end of 2015.

In 113 plate appearances during last season, Seager managed to put up a .421 wOBA. Combined with his solid defense (+1 DRS), the shortstop accumulated 1.5 Wins Above Replacement in only 25 games. That’s absurd. Over a full 600 plate appearances, you’re looking at a near 8-win player. But you have to tone it back some.

Right now, the ZiPS people project Seager as a 4-win player. Even producing that alone would increase the team’s chances at winning more games. However, it doesn’t just start and end with the offense (or defense). You also need to take pitching into account here.

The bullpen seems to be coming back mostly intact, so it’s all on the starting rotation. You know what you’re going to get out of Clayton Kershaw since he’s the best pitcher in the game right now. But what about those other guys? Well, it might not be that bad.

While losing Zack Greinke appears to hurt on the surface, it should be noted that Greinke hadn’t performed anywhere close to last season except for his 2009 season in Kansas City. Those are the two outliers. That isn’t to say that Greinke hasn’t been productive in his career, because he surely has, but not consistently up to that level.

The starting rotation will replace him with a few guys rather than just one. Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda, both projected for 3-win seasons apiece by ZiPS, can do the job as a tandem. It doesn’t stop there, though. Throw in a full season of Alex Wood, the return of Hyun-jin Ryu, and the continued performance of Brett Anderson, as well as the progression of Mike Bolsinger.

It’s going to be a committee job by the starting rotation after Kershaw’s spot. And that’s fine. You can live like that. The Dodgers just need to outperform the final couple spots in the rotation from last season to even project better going into this season. And, for right now, it appears they might.

If a team loses a starting pitcher as good as Greinke was last season, you don’t replace him with just one guy. It’s an “all hands on deck” sort of mentality that has to take over. They have that now. With Kazmir, Maeda, Anderson, and Wood slotted in behind Kershaw for now, the depth is there. Especially with Ryu, McCarthy, and Bolsinger waiting their respective turns.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, a full season of Kenley Jansen is a big deal. The hulking righty missed the first month and a half of 2015. He’s one of the premier closers in the game, so having him from the get-go is going to be a massive jolt in the arm to a team that needs all the bullpen help they can get.

When you factor in everything – from the depth in the rotation to the health to the progression by a lot of players to the improvements that’ll come defensively due to some players leaving – then you can start to see how the Dodgers could definitely overachieve during the 2016 regular season. 90+ wins isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Neither is 92 or 94.

Especially with a new manager who is full of energy. That alone can light a fire under players and get them to perform over their heads. Either way, 2016 is going to be a heck of a year for the team. Just don’t be shocked if they perform better than you might expect.

NEXT: ESPN Says Dodgers Had Best Bullpen Of 2000s

15 Responses

  1. Blue58

    Nice, optimistic take on the upcoming season. That’s the great thing about these preseason projections, they are complete speculation. One could just as easily write “Dodgers Could Underperform,” citing the advancing age of Gonzalez, Ether and Crawford, the mystery that is second base, the decision to stand pat on last season’s unreliable bullpen and the fact that Roberts has never managed a game, much less been in charge of such a diverse, volatile team. Also, it’s worth pointing out that Pederson did not have a good first half and a bad second half. He had a good start and got steadily worse as the season progressed. He wasn’t up and down, he was in unbroken decline, month after month. That suggests pitchers learned how to get him out and he never adjusted. Why should we think he will have a sudden breakthrough this April?

  2. Robert Hamilton

    Blue58 Well said! You made some interesting points. Peterson  needs competition in center field. No more home run derby and trying  so many different  approaches. And Crawford is air that is there, don’t depend on him at all. Something that I see as a blessing, is that competition in the West is good. Look at all the teams that coasted to the Crowns, they eventually lost during  the playoffs. My thought is that if we have to  battle to the end we will be better off, as long as we make the playoffs. Look at the Giants, KC and others who had some momentum entering the playoffs. Call me crazy  but there is a reason that wild card teams win Championships.

  3. Blackspur

    Robert Hamilton  Blue58 Likewise, my friends.  There seems to be an excess of wishful thinking from the Front Office to the blogosphere this year.  Pederson is going to turn it around and not be the washout that he appears to be.  That Puig will respond to new management and coaching.  That the medical wrecks that are much of the rotation won’t completely fall apart.  That the bad bullpen from last year will somehow learn from that experience and perform better.  That the lineup which generated little offense down the stretch and into the playoffs and has lost one of it’s most consistent hitters will somehow generate more offense.  That Ethier will have a year as good as last year.  That Crawford will be of any use at all.  That Alex Guerrero will be traded or given away and won’t just be a useless lump on the bench.  That Gonzales won’t finally succumb to age.  That Turner’s knee will hold up.  That Utley will magically transform into his younger hitting self.  That Kershaw, who is way overdue for a major pitching injury won’t.  Hey, I’m as optimistic as hell about this team overachieving, aren’t you?

  4. Tmaxster

    Blue58 Yes I agree with all of you. Grandal had shoulder surgery and that is not usually a fast recovery. Look at Kemp and others with shoulder work it takes over a year after they return to get the flexiblity and strength back to drive the ball. 
    Turner’s knee surgery was not a clean out as we had all thought it was micro fracture surgery. That knee was damaged. It is amazing Turner played the last part of the year in that pain. He is a tough guy. How does that effect his range, speed and longevity? 
    I completely agree with Pederson he was too stubborn or perhaps does not have the skill to change. If you look at his Minor League record he has always been the strikeout guy. Well he has now run into the Big Dogs in the pitching world and he could not adapt. I do not have a lot of faith in him going forward. I am very glad they brought in Thompson to push him and possibly replace him. 
    I think the BP will be fine. The young arms got a lot of valuable experience. 
    But the offense scres the heck out of me…

  5. Michael Norris

    Tmaxster Blue58  Great points from all. For this Dodger team to over achieve a whole lot of things need to be positive. Pederson, Grandal, and Crawford all need to be healthy and producing..I add Crawford because no team in its right mind is going to trade for the guy. IF he is healthy, and can play 100+ games, he would probably be a very productive player, because if you look at the times he was healthy, he was just short of great. Pederson will have a new batting coach, and a manager who is not just going to sit on his thumbs if Joc is slumping. Reason>? Trayce Thompson. The outfielder they got from the Sox, has speed, gap power, and is almost Joc’s equal on defense, and he too is a natural CF. So Pederson will be pushed from spring on, and it would not surprise me one bit that if he has a lousy spring, he is back at AAA. The Kike-Utley platoon at 2B to me is ill conceived, and faulty. It counts on the 37 year old Utley having a revival at the plate, and Kike killing LHP. Kike hitting lefty’s is pretty much a given. Utley having the range to cover 2B, and having a revival at the plate? Not so much. Turner will be Turner..a solid player…..but for how long? If his knee is sound, he will be fine, but right now there are no other options, and don’t say Alex Guererro. He is listed as an OF because that is where he can do the least damage. SS and Seager will be fine. I think he will have a good rookie season,, but do not expect .300 avg and 30 dingers…..,. 265 and about 20 sounds right. Gonzo, 280, 25 HR’s 90 ribbies at this age would be awesome. The bench is solid……Ethier and SVS can do the job, Johnson will get a shot in spring to make the team…his speed is intriguing, his glove is not…..right now he is the only backup infielder. SVS can play 1st to spell Gonzo….Barnes will be lucky to make the team, so I am thinking a phone call away in AAA for when Grandal implodes, and it will happen. The guy is over rated and a selfish player coming off shoulder surgery that is going to rob him of his power. AJ back for one more year is a good thing…when healthy, he is the BEST catcher on the team. His leadership and game calling skills are way above Grandstand. The starters need to be solid.1-5….Kersh will be fine, after that it is a crapshoot. The BP has 1 more year experience under their belt which should help Baez, Garcia, and Hatcher. All in all, a lot has to go absolutely right for this team to over achieve…..Not being a Debbie Downer here, but they are going to have to show me a lot before I believe..

  6. Tmaxster

    Michael Norris Tmaxster Blue58 Yes you are right I think on all counts. 
    It is a good point on Crawford. If he is healthy the man is a difference maker. He can pretty much carry a club. Unfortunately we have not seen but flashes of that. I have read he is well liked in the Clubhouse and is a great Teammate. I hope as his game is speed he can tutor Thompson a bit as I have read Thompson has some base speed.. I am hoping Thompson pushes Pederson hard…
    I may be deluding myself but I think we have enough arms to figure out a BP that is effective and hopefully Great.
    I have great hopes for Roberts leading the Team. I liked him as a player. He was a scrapper and used his speed and intelligence to play for several years. I do not think he will let Pederson continue to swing and miss or ground into DP’s as long as Mattingly did . 

    Hey Spring Eternal as they say and I am hoping for a great start and a great Dodger year. But yes I agree with everyone’s justifiable concerns. Lots of IF’s.. too many of them..

  7. Therealponch

    I do agree with most of the points made in these comments. I will however take a decidedly more optimistic approach to forecasting the Dodgers upcoming season. I first take a look at who is leaving. Greinke, Kendrick, Nicasio and Peralta. Greinke had 33 amazing starts for the Dodgers a huge loss. They gained up to 45 starts off the DL in Ryu and McCarthy, as many as 66 starts picked up in free agency in Kazmir and Meada and 20+ more starts with a full season of Alex Wood. Interesting fact if these five starters contacts max out their combined total will still be less than what Greinke got from the Dbacks. The Dodgers saved money and added as many as 100 starts from better starters than they had last year. Howie Kendrick was a solid second baseman for the Dodgers last year with slightly below average defense and an above average bat. Injuries kept him from a full season but Kiké filled in nicely for him when Howie went on the DL. Utley should have similar defense to Howie and in a platoon role (only facing righties) Utley should have a similar amount of plate appearances and could have comparable production. Everyone is saying the old guys on the team will see their production go down because they are another year older but no one is countering with the young guys will be better because they now have more experience. Grandal, Peterson, Seager, Kiké, Van Slyke, Puig, Thompson and everyone in AAA have a big chance to step up or make a name for themselves or prove they are the player that they showed they could be. The BP has lost a few ineffective pitchers that have not been replaced. Could it be straightened by the likes of Frias, Wood or Bolsinger pitching significant innings? Or will it be better by just letting the worst parts of it leave? At this point it will be a mid level pin at best. Overall same team as last year with more depth. Looks like a 96 win team to me.

  8. Blue58

    What the pessimists, optimists and realists all agree on is that the Dodgers’ season hinges on the unknowable–principally whether the young players improve, the injured recover and bullpen fixes itself.

    Of course the front office sees the same issues that we see and has chosen to let them ride. I believe that although they will never admit it to fans or players, Friedman and Zaidi are prepared to accept a losing season this year because for them 2016 is all about evaluating the young players, principally Seager, Pederson, Puig, Hernandez, Urias, DeLeon, Cotton, Montas, Thompson and Johnson. If they like what they see, their vision of a “sustainable” contender emerging later in this decade will be on track. If a lot of these players fall short, they will have to dip into the free agent market next year and later.

    I think the first half of the season will be crucial. If the Dodgers are still in the race by the trade deadline, and after a half season of evaluating the youngsters, the front office may go for a major trade to make the playoffs. If the team is struggling under .500, they will unload every veteran they can not named Kershaw for more precious prospects. 

    Friedman thinks he is playing the long game and building a self-sustaining juggernaut that will dominate the league in the 2020s. That’s the best explanation for why he hoards prospects and refuses to take on long-term contracts and it fits in with what they have said publicly. But that’s a dangerous game, since it is so dependent on minor leaguers emerging as major league stars. Most minor leaguers never make it in the big leagues. Moreover, by the time his “sustainable” vision becomes a reality, if it ever becomes reality, Gonzalez will be retired or on another team and Kershaw probably will have opted out and left the Dodgers as well. 

    The bottom line is that no one can make the case that the 2016 Dodgers are a team primarily built to “win now,” like, say the Cubs, Giants, Nationals and Cardinals. But the beauty of the game is that doesn’t mean they won’t win. At this time last year everyone was predicting the Nationals would be unbeatable and they flopped spectacularly, and no one thought the Royals had a good enough starting rotation to win the division, much less lead the league in victories.

    So, can the Dodgers win the World Series in 2016? Yes. If everything falls into place and they get hot at the right time, of course they can win. Let’s acknowledge that the Giants, for all the smarts of their front office, were carried to the 2014 title on the shoulders of one player, Madison Bumgarner. So, the Dodgers still could end up in the winning circle. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.

  9. Tmaxster

    Therealponch One change this year will be the improvement in pitching and health of the Giants and the pitching depth and improvement of the Dbacks. With the rest of the National League also getting better, Cubs, Nats Giants, Dbacks Cards etc I see competition keeping the win total down for everyone. 
    I am still not sold on Grandal long term especially with the shoulder injury. Also like Scioscia I still think “pitch framing” is a made up stat.///
    Ellis to me is a more strategic pitch caller, better at blocking a ball in the dirt and when healthy was hitting close to Grandal’s numbers with limited at bats.. Look how well AJ has down in both playoffs. He is a money player….But his pitch calling and defense make him far superior…
    I do have hopes for Barnes and the word is Farmer and Deleon are very good in the minors so catching unless traded is covered for many years…
    Pederson has not shown to be able to hit the outside pitch. I have high hopes for Thompson and I am hoping for Micah Johnson to grab the opportunity and burn up  Spring Ball to make them put him on the roster…. 
    Still worried about back up in the infield which is why I am hoping for Johnson or a trade..

  10. Tmaxster

    Blue58 You are so right. And that possibility keeps us watching and speculating and playing the “What if game” .
    Wait till next year is the Baseball motto…
    But I agree this club is not built as are the Cubs and Nats to win NOW. Although Epstein has done an incredible job and I think the Cubs will be contenders for many years to come. And how weird is that to say? 
    I think the Dodgers will be better in 2017 than 2016. And better again in 2018…
    But we are all hoping to catch Lightning in a bottle and win now…You are right it could happen. I doubt it but it could…..

  11. JacksonEbner

    It’s tough to prognosticate this team, so many players you just don’t know what kind of season to expect.  My confidence stems less from the present roster, which is promising but uncertain, and more from the fact they have plenty of money and prospects, so once the haze clears on who is producing, they have everything they need to fill holes mid season.  It isn’t so much what you start with than what you end with.  It would take a series of disasters for this team not to be competitive in their division.

  12. Michael Norris

    JacksonEbner  True to a point, and the point is this………..no one can predict how this team or any team is going to perform…just as it would take a series of disasters for the team not to perform, they are relying on better performances of some major players. That is not a given by any sense of the word, no one knows right now if Ryu can even pitch. He just started workouts, and McCarty is no lock to be back by the all star game….so Maeda, Kazmir, Wood, and Anderson all have to perform at high levels for the team to be successful. Pederson has to conquer the strike zone and learn to level out his swing and not strike out so much, CC needs to be healthy, Grandal needs to be healthy also……So much has to go right, that it is almost a given that a lot will go wrong…….talk to me in June after this team has played 60 games….we should have some idea of what we have then..

  13. Michael Norris

    Therealponch   Kike filled in nicely, that is true, but a majority of the pitchers in the big leagues are RH. So who do you think is going to get the majority of AB’s at 2nd? That’s right, Utley, and I doubt seriously if he is going to magically become the Utley of 5 years ago…..kike is much better suited to the utility role. All these starts you say they are getting mean bupkis. @ of those guys on that list have had a history of medical problems, 2 others, Ryu and McCarty are coming of major surgeries, so there is no guarantee that they will contribute anything….you want Bolsinger and Frias in those roles again? Both were mediocre, and are basically 5 inning pitchers. You are assuming everyone will be healthy…..Grandal is coming off shoulder surgery, and we all know it took Kemp more than a year to rediscover his power….Is Grandal any different…..I think he will regress…….too many question marks……talk to me in June after they have played 60 games….we will know then what we have…right now all there are is questions…


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