Time sure does go by fast. Seems like just yesterday Spring Training was back, and we were talking about how we couldn’t wait until the real games started. And here we are now, at the end of May already.
So, with a little over a quarter of the way through the MLB season, it’s time to take a look at how the Dodgers have done thus far. A quarterly report card, if you will. Here, we’ll look at each major area for the Dodgers, and assign them a grade.
At 25-23 and 4 ½ games back, surely the Dodgers haven’t performed at the level that they hoped they would. But it’s still very early in the year, and there’s plenty of time to right the ship. Still, the Dodgers will have some improving to do if they want to win a 4th straight division title and return to the post season.
So, with that said, on to the grades.
Offense – ‘C’
There’s been some pleasant surprises so far, but also some disappointments. The lineup has depth, but the middle of the order isn’t necessarily one that strikes fear in opposing teams. Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, Howie Kendrick, and Yasmani Grandal are just some players that have underachieved so far in 2016.
The bright spots have been the young kids. Corey Seager came in this year with a lot of hype surrounding him, and he hasn’t disappointed. Joc Pederson still strikes out a lot, but he also still gets on base at a good rate, plays great defense, and is on pace for 27 home runs. Trayce Thompson has also done very well with limited playing time, and may have finally won the starting LF job.
Entering play Wednesday, the Dodgers offense ranked 7th in the league in scoring, 9th in hitting, 10th in OBP, and 9th in home runs. Overall, pretty average (or below avg) numbers.
Another aspect to their struggles is getting runners over, and then getting them in once they’re in scoring position. The Dodgers are next to last in the N.L in stolen bases this year, and are 12th in hitting with RISP.
The main theme with the offense so far this year seems to be the inconsistency. At times, it’s as if the entire offense goes into a slump and there will be periods when scoring runs just doesn’t come easy. But if they can somehow manage to get everyone swinging the bat well at the same time, they could definitely turn things around.
Best performers: Corey Seager – .270/.330/.462, 7 HR, 23 RBI. Trayce Thompson – .290/.355/.560, 7 HR, 19 RBI (in only 100 AB.) Chase Utley – .291/.382/.412.
Worst performers: Yasmani Grandal – .188/.272/.347, 3 HR, 13 RBI. Carl Crawford – .200/.232/.262, 0 HR, 0 SB. Howie Kendrick – .240/.284/.304, 1 HR, 8 RBI.
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Starting Rotation – ‘B’
Clayton Kershaw remains the best pitcher on the planet, and continues to amaze each time out. The Dodgers are 9-1 when he takes the mound, and 16-22 when he doesn’t. Much of the reason this grade is what it is, can be in thanks to him. The rest of the rotation has been fairly average as a whole.
Kenta Maeda was a nice surprise early in the year, and though he still has overall solid numbers, he’s struggled a little in his last couple of starts. The concern is whether opposing teams have made adjustments and figured him out a bit. Scott Kazmir was signed as the projected #2 starter, but has the highest ERA of all the Dodgers starters at 5.23. Alex Wood and rookie Ross Stripling have pitched like you’d expect your #4 & #5 guys to pitch. Not great, but pretty decent.
Going forward, the Dodgers can’t continue to rely solely on Kershaw. He’s pitched out of his mind, and they’re still barely over .500. Although, it may not be realistic to expect too much more from the current group.
The big question around the Dodgers rotation is the expected return of injured players like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy. Will they be able to come back at 100%? And if so, will they improve on what the Dodgers already have?
The final consideration is a possible call up for one of the highly regarded rookies at AAA. Julio Urias has been unbelievable so far down at Oklahoma City, and has only raised his stock even more. At only 19 years old though, the Dodgers won’t want to rush him, and even if he gets a call up, he’ll be on an innings limit, and will likely work out of the bullpen. Same could probably be said for Jose DeLeon.
Best performers: Clayton Kershaw – 7-1, 1.48 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 79 Inn, 95 K’s, 5 BB, 3 CG, 3 SHO
Worst performers: Scott Kazmir – 3-3, 5.23 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 51 Inn, 48 K’S, 20 BB.
Bullpen – ‘D+’
Perhaps I’m being a little over-critical here, but the Dodgers bullpen has been a point of contention for the last few years now. It’s getting a little old, so maybe I’m letting that frustration influence my grade. But at the same time, some may think I’m being generous here. Looking at the inconsistency though, I think anything higher than a ‘C’ would be generous.
Kenley Jansen has been his typical dominate self in 2016. The trouble has been getting the ball to him with the middle relief. Only the Cincinnati Reds have more blown Saves than the Dodgers’ 8 this year, and only two of those Saves were blown by Jansen (both within the last week.) The Dodgers also have the 5th highest IRS% (Inherited Runners Scored) at 35.5%.
There have been stretches where the bullpen has been effective, but again, it’s the lack of consistency that’s the problem. As mentioned above, perhaps a mid-season call up for one of the young prospects could give the bullpen a boost. Carlos Frias is healthy now, Yimi Garcia will hopefully be back sometime, and perhaps the return of Ryu and McCarthy could bump some of the current starters to the bullpen.
So, options are out there. Whether any of them work or not, remains to be seen. One thing seems certain. If the Dodgers are going to make a run this year, they will need the bullpen to come around and be more consistent.
Best performers: Kenley Jansen – 13 Saves, 1.50 ERA, 10.0 K/9
Worst performers: Everyone not named Kenley Jansen. Ok, maybe too harsh. Chris Hatcher – 6.00 ERA, .274 BAA, and J.P Howell – 5.65 ERA, .255 BAA.
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Coaching – ‘B-’
As a rookie manager, expectations of Dave Roberts had to be tempered. So far, the sample size has been too small to really judge either way. He may have had some questionable decisions now and again, but there hasn’t been any major managerial meltdowns, and his comradery with the players seems genuine. He’s tried to manage the bullpen the best he can, but they haven’t made it very easy. It took a little longer than I would have liked for him to go with Trayce Thompson in LF on a more full time basis, but he seems to have come around now.
A big challenge for Roberts will be how to go about managing the depth on the roster. What happens when guys like Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke return? Who gets bumped from the rotation when Ryu and McCarthy come back? Depth is great to have, but it also presents some issues with playing time that could be problematic if not handled correctly.
Roberts will surely make some rookie manager mistakes, and hopefully he’ll learn from them. At the end of the day though, the players on the field will likely make the difference.
Front Office – ‘C’
This is one area where many fans have pretty strong opinions either way. Some believe that Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have done a great job rebuilding the farm system, while still trying to keep the Dodgers competitive. Others say that they haven’t done enough, especially in that latter category. In 4-5 years from now, maybe this grade is completely different. But we’re simply grading this season right now.
Looking at the signings that were, and weren’t made, you can debate whether they have worked out so far. Zack Greinke has struggled so far in Arizona, but it’s hard to say whether those same struggles would have happened in a Dodgers uniform. And we’ll have to see if they continue all year. Kenta Maeda has been better than expected (so far) but Scott Kazmir, worse (so far.) They shied away from signing any big name free agents, and there were no major additions to the bullpen.
On the flip-side, they did keep building one of the best farm systems in the minors, and were active with international signings. Moreover, the trade that brought in Tryace Thompson, Frankie Montas, and Micah Johnson looks to be a good one so far.
To be fair, we really can’t fully evaluate the moves by the front office until we see how everything plays out, and that could be years down the road. It will likely be gauged in championships won, and/or continued playoff appearances, along with division dominance. No doubt the farm system is a strength for the Dodgers. However, they don’t give out rings for that. Fans want a World Series, and each passing year without one, gets more disheartening.
Additional moves could be made at the trading deadline, but until then, the Dodgers will have to make do with what they have.
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Overall Team Grade – ‘C+’
You’ll notice a lot of average grades on this quarterly report card. For a team that’s playing about .500 ball, that should be expected. There’s still plenty of baseball left, and certainly the Dodgers are still in the race. But they’ll need to improve in multiple areas in order to get back to where they want to be.
‘C’ grades will get you by, but the Dodgers shouldn’t be content with that. Certainly, the fans aren’t.