Apr 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (left) presents recording artist Psy with a jersey after the game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers fans who thought they had experienced an injury plagued 2012 and figured 2013 couldn’t possibly come close to providing the same bizarre scenarios were sorely mistaken. Considering that virtually everything that could go wrong for the Dodgers has & Dodgers fans should be grateful that their squad is 13 & 13. After all, it could be worse, you could be a fan of the California Angels of Anaheim in Orange County near Los Angeles, who sport a 10 & 17 record. BTW everyone is all over the Dodgers for their spending, but at least they aren’t in year 2 of a 10 year contract with Albert Pujols & won’t be paying a 40 yr old $25 million dollars like the Angels will be with Pujols.
But back to the ONLY Baseball team that actually resides in Los Angeles, the Dodgers; let’s have a look at the roller coaster ride that was April. Hanley Ramirez missed nearly the entire month, but his 1 start was memorable as he homered, on his Bobblehead night no less to end the month on a high note. Clayton Kershaw’s opening day heroics seemed to get the season started on a magical note but then everything started going to pieces. All of that starting pitching depth, which was supposed to be a challenge in terms of how to utilize them all has been completely thrown out the window, mix in a 6 game losing streak, 6 pitchers (5 Starters) placed on the DL, and the Offense being 7th in OBP yet 28th in Runs and all of a sudden 13 and 13 doesn’t look so bad.
$147 million dollar man Zack Greinke managed all of 2 starts before Carlos Quentin lost his mind and the Dodgers lost Greinke for 2 months. Chad Billingsley, who should be 9 months into his recovery from Tommy John surgery tried instead to pitch through it via Plasma Rich Injections, and is now most likely out until 2015. It’s not like ALL of us saw that coming, I guess all of us not including Chad and the Dodgers medical staff. Ted Lilly also made all of 2 starts recovering from off-season surgery and after being shelled in his last start looks to be headed back to the DL with back & neck & being old issues. This may actually be a blessing in disguise as young Matt Magill who was very impressive in his MLB debut deserves to be in the rotation and very well may be. Josh Beckett has been up and down as has most everyone in the bullpen not named Kenley Jansen.
Hyun Jin-Ryu, fresh off of a 12 strikeout performance, has been very impressive and is one of the top starters in K’s per 9 IP. The Dodgers don’t look as foolish as everyone claimed they were for investing so much in the 25 year old lefty, unless you value the opinion of ESPN’s Keith Law who saw Ryu pitch early in Spring Training and came away unimpressed. Despite Ryu’s early season success Law remains adamant that based on watching him pitch 3 innings this Spring that Ryu is “A Fringy Fourth Starter” and in a Tweet to our @LasordasLair account he claimed “Nothing has changed” with Ryu since he saw him in March. Seriously, it is absurd for a so called scouting expert to base his analysis of any pitcher on what he saw in 3 Spring Training innings and discount what he’s done in his 6 starts. I guess 5 quality starts, 3 wins, and a 46 to 10 K to BB ratio don’t count as much as one spring training appearance. Regardless, Dodgers fans are thrilled with Ryu’s performance so who really cares what Keith Law thinks.
What a difference a year makes for Matt Kemp. Last April he was unstoppable, considering his struggles early this season, combined with Andre Ethier’s awful start, and again 13 & 13 isn’t so bad. I’d like to personally thank Red Sox fans for driving Carl Crawford out of Boston, he looks like the All-Star he was just a couple of years ago. He and Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Ellis have really carried the offense, However, Ellis seems destined for the DL with a quad injury & Crawford has missed 2 straight games with a tight hamstring. Just what the Dodgers needed, the top 2 hitters who have been getting on base seemingly every game getting injured. With Hanley back the Dodgers lineup balances out in terms of lefty/righty hitters, which prevents teams from sending up lefty after lefty to attack the likes of Crawford, Gonzo, Ethier late in games.
One positive is the impact of Mark McGwire’s philosophy as hitting coach, which has resulted in the Dodgers significantly improving their on base percentage. However, the number of runners on base has yet to translate into an explosive offense. The team has struggled taking the extra base and is at the bottom of the league hitting with runners in scoring position. But over the course of a full season you have to think that the numbers will even out and the team will have to start scoring more runs.
Luis Cruz appears to have been a 1 year wonder, but the rest of the bench has been decent. Jerry Hairston Jr. may play every position on the field before the season is over, and Juan Uribe has dropped a few LBS and despite a .218 average has an OBP over .400 and looks like he’s playing for one more contract. Nick Punto has been terrific, thanks again Boston, but Skip Schumaker is hitting just, 139. The big question is what is going to happen long-term at third base. Uribe, Punto & Cruz certainly aren’t every day solutions. The answer could be just down the road in San Diego where Chase Headley is supposedly on the trading block, but I have a hard time seeing the Padres trading him within the division, however third base is a concern that Ned Colletti is going to have to address.
All in all April has been a wild ride with injuries and inconsistent play continuing to perplex the franchise and its fans. If April is any indication then Dodgers fans are in for a crazy year. They can only hope that good health will finally happen and talented players like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will start to perform to their potential. If they do, and if the third base question is answered, the Dodgers should be in a position to be playing come October.