Winning a division for four straight seasons is a tall task, all you have to do is ask anyone who has ever played a sport at any competitive level. The Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to accomplish that tough achievement this season as they look to claim their first World Series crown since 1988.
Unfortunately, not everything always goes according to plan, and that’s something that the Dodgers could possibly be facing this season.
The injuries have already started to mount up during the spring, and things are only going to get worse as the dog days of summer kick into full gear, I fear.
Clayton Kershaw is the only dependable member of the rotation, but even the burden of the season and expectations becomes too much for him. Kershaw finishes up with an ERA around 2.50, and that won’t be enough to carry the weight that the team has placed upon its own shoulders.
Everyone else isn’t so fortunate, though. Scott Kazmir’s velocity dip is a real thing, and he becomes quite hittable all season long as he struggles to finish with an era under four. Kenta Maeda has a tough time adjusting to Major League hitting, and he gets shelled repeatedly all season long while trying to give the team any semblance of innings.
Alex Wood never is able to reclaim his 2014 self, and he pitches more like he did with the Dodgers in the second half of 2015. While he shows glimmers here and there, that’s all they are. The fifth spot in the rotation is a hodgepodge of disaster as the team jumps from one starter to another in the hopes that one actually shows enough to take the job. No one ever does. Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy are welcomed back with open arms, but neither is able to help at all.
While Kenley Jansen performs well, and J.P. Howell gives an adequate performance, no one else really steps up with a big time season. Joe Blanton becomes a bust of a signing, getting shellacked repeatedly like in his first go-around with the Dodgers. Louis Coleman has his moments, but his spring magic quickly fades under the bright lights of the long season.
Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez show the flashes that they showed in 2015, but neither puts together a season that wins over the front office or the fanbase. Everyone just waits around for their best outings, but they never really materialize. Howell, as stated, pitches solidly, and helps bridge the gap to Jansen in the ninth inning as Jansen goes into free agency with a quality season.
While Yasmani Grandal returns from injury to perform decently, he still doesn’t come close to his 2015 levels before that shoulder injury he suffered in August. A.J. Ellis and Austin Barnes do their best to supply some offense and defense, but the trio behind the dish just doesn’t live up to expectations.
Adrian Gonzalez still produces his steady season, so there’s no downside on his end outside of fewer games played due to the bulging disk in his neck. Howie Kendrick finally has age catch up with him as he struggles to hit .280 as a 32-year old. Chase Utley sees the gross side of age even more as he barely hits .200 and is just a mess all over the place. Kike Hernandez does give a solid performance, though, but can’t buoy the other two.
Justin Turner rebounds from his offseason knee surgery to perform well, but not great. He hits .285 with 10 home runs, and his defense is still there, but his hitting isn’t up to where it was the last two seasons. However, he’s not able to carry the middle of the offense with Gonzalez by themselves. They still produce solid numbers, but are unable to be the driving force behind the team like they have been in the past.
Corey Seager fails to live up to his lofty expectations, and he struggles at the plate. The September display he put on in 2015 was more of a mirage than a trend, and Seager finishes the season with a .250/.300/.430 line. His defense is still solid and he does smack a few home runs, but he doesn’t have the rookie season that people thought he would. Seager still wins Rookie of the Year, but only because the rest of the National League was so woeful in that regard.
Carl Crawford is far too long in tooth and Scott Van Slyke is unable to perform at a high level at the plate to offset the injury to Andre Ethier. Even though Ethier comes back sometime in late July, he doesn’t perform well because of that injury. The writing is on the wall for both Crawford and Ethier, and the team seriously considers just cutting bait with Crawford during the middle of the season to save a headache.
Even though Joc Pederson doesn’t perform as poorly as he did in 2015, he still doesn’t come close to his first half numbers. Pederson finishes the season with a .225/.350/.420 line while hitting just 15 home runs and striking out a whopping 185 times. His defense is still there, but his overall offensive production dips as some fans really do wonder if Trayce Thompson is the real answer in center field instead of Joc. On his end, Thompson has a decent season, actually hitting .255 with five home runs.
Despite not coming close to his dismal 2015 level, Yasiel Puig never is able to rekindle his 2013 or 2014 magic. Puig finishes the year batting .270 with just 12 home runs and a woeful strikeout ratio. His defense in right field is hit and miss, and fans grow weary of if he’ll ever be the player they once thought he could be.
While the team has their ups and downs, they finish with 83 wins in a tough season under first-year manager Dave Roberts. He does his best to keep the team afloat throughout the myriad of injuries and slumps, but ultimately the Dodgers fall short of a fourth straight division title. They miss out on a Wild Card spot by three games, and they have to watch the San Francisco Giants win the division title out from under them. Fans riot over not being able to watch the season thanks to the lack of a television deal, and their anger with everything leads to some firings in the front office.