Grading The LA Dodgers As The Playoffs Approach


As the Los Angeles Dodgers come into the final stretch of the season, let’s take a look at how they shape up when examined as parts that make up the whole.

The starting pitchers:

The Big Three of Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu have taken a punch to the gut with Hyun-Jin Ryu experiencing an ill-timed shoulder flare up.  Manager Don Mattingly seems optimistic that Ryu will be back just in the nick of time for his first playoff start. I’m giving that scenario even money. If Ryu does pitch, it’s also even money that he’ll be as effective as he was before the injury.

As for Greinke and Kershaw, I expect them to be everything we’re hoping for.  No worries there. Dan Haren‘s last start was a disaster in Colorado, but if he follows his recent pattern, that means he’ll be brilliant in his next two starts. Grade: B-minus

The bats:

The Dodger hitters are coming on strong at just the right time. Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe are getting hot and are looking formidable as a line up these days. Yasiel Puig is starting to show signs of life at the plate, so he may well break out of his horrible slump and join the rest of the Dodger big boppers any time now. The drawback is – this group is very streaky.

I don’t lose too much sleep over the possibility of Puig remaining in that slump because his usual replacement, Scott Van Slyke, brings a Paul Bunyan swing and Mighty Casey home run potential to the plate in every single at bat. Speaking of pretty darn good hitters coming off  the bench, Justin Turner is bringing us the return of Manny Mota – but with power.

After those fellows, the rest of the Dodger line up offers an occasional single or double (with or without clutch timing), not enough walks, and lots of grounders to opposing shortstops.  Grade: B-minus

The defense:

The Dodgers had a real problem with playing defense at the start of the season.  Since the All-Star break they’ve cleaned up rather nicely and now hold up pretty well as a defensive unit.

Hanley must have heard everyone saying he’s a lousy shortstop, because he’s cleaned up his act also, and has played surprisingly well in the last couple of series’. Gonzalez and Uribe remain solid at the corners.

Mattingly has good defensive options off the bench if Hanley needs a rest or Dee Gordon‘s quiet bat remains quiet. In the outfield Kemp, Puig and Crawford are pretty solid with the leather, but each of their arms are suspect when tested.

A.J. Ellis doesn’t make too many mistakes behind the plate and handles the pitching staff pretty well, which are the ONLY reasons he still has a job, because he’s the worst hitting Dodger catcher I’ve seen since Charles JohnsonGrade: B+plus

The Achilles heel – I mean, The bullpen:

J.P. Howell and Kenley Jansen – both steady and reliable.  Pretty much everyone else has no business wearing a Dodger uniform.  Grade: D

The Manager:

The Dodgers are on very iffy ground with Don Mattingly leading them into the playoffs. Mattingly may do a great job of defending his players in press conferences, and in keeping the dysfunctional parts of the Dodgers’ puzzle from spilling out of the locker room, but those skills are useful for handling egos and personalities over the course of a season.  They have very little to do with how a manager must operate and execute in a hard-fought playoff series.

One interesting and positive in-game skill Mattingly seems to have a knack for is using instant replay.  He seems to have an uncanny instinct for when to use it and he wins far more challenges than he loses. A well-timed challenge certainly can change the tide of momentum in a close contest.

That said, we’ve seen time and again that Mattingly is an atrocious in-game general.  He’s into his third season and still doesn’t understand how to pencil in a major league batting line up. In addition to that, he’ll make the grandest of mistakes at the absolute worst of times. Oh yes, he will. Grade: D+plus

If the starting pitchers can hold the opponents off, and the bats knock in a few runs to support them, it’s World Series, here we come!  But if the bats go cold, or the games are close and it comes down to the cunning and baseball genius of any manager vs. Mattingly – it’s bust, and the taste of ashes for the Dodgers.  Overall Team Grade: C+plus