Focusing on run prevention rather than run scoring, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi let Hanley Ramirez walk, traded Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon, and added Jimmy Rollins, Yasmani Grandal and Howie Kendrick. Kemp and Ramirez were two of the worst defenders at their position, making their loss an addition by subtraction on defense. The work of the front office is now being noticed.
ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney ranked the top-10 defenses in the MLB and the Dodgers made the list:
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
The working goal of the team’s new baseball operations department could not have been more clear this winter, and it falls in line with what the coaching staff believed needed to happen: The Dodgers had to get better on defense, so Dee Gordon, inexperienced at second base, was moved in a trade, and has been replaced by the steady Howie Kendrick. Hanley Ramirez was a major defensive liability at shortstop, and now Jimmy Rollins, still one of the game’s better defenders, has taken over. With the trade of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig has been moved back to right field, and the Dodgers will look to establish Joc Pederson, a legitimate center fielder, in that spot.
The difference will be striking; with changes all over the defensive spine of this team, the Dodgers should go from being one of the worst defensive teams to being one of the best, with a group that complements their ballpark and their pitching staff. The Dodgers already had good defenders in first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and third baseman Juan Uribe.
Don Mattingly told reporters he believes the Dodgers are a more cohesive team.
In the infield, the Dodgers have one of the best defensive combinations despite also being one of the oldest. The biggest liability on defense could come in left field, where Carl Crawford isn’t the best glove and even less of an arm. Andre Ethier would be a defensive upgrade at the spot, but he may be traded and struggled at the plate last season.
It will be a different team on the field in 2015, one that could stop more runs than it did in 2014.