An offseason chock full of changes to the Dodgers roster included a 50% overhaul of their infield. After wincing every time a ball was hit up the middle last season, Dodger fans will feel a lot more confident with the middle infield configuration set to open 2015 for the Boys in Blue. While I loved Hanley Ramirez, and I will surely miss his helmet flying off his dreadlocked head and his I See You shtick which was fun, I won’t miss his lack of range and double clutching defense at shortstop next year.
With defensively solid corner infielders in Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers were weak up the middle. This was a glaring hole in their defensive fortitude which was exploited by competitors last season including the annoying St. Louis Cardinals who hit the Dodgers hard up the middle during that fateful seventh inning Clayton Kershaw meltdown. Infielders with more range perhaps could have gotten to a few of those balls and softened the blow dealt by the Red Birds in that disastrous NLDS game.
Dee Gordon certainly proved that he could play second base last season to everyone’s amazement. I for one never thought he would be as good as he was. He made some spectacular plays that even Howie Kendrick probably couldn’t have made, but the Dodgers felt that Kendrick could offer more stability and experience from the important second base position in 2015 and hopefully beyond. While Gordon made some amazing plays from second base, he still struggled at times to even stay on his feet when a hard hit ball came his way.
With Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick now joining the Dodgers, the infield got a whole lot more reliable. Juan Uribe, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez are suddenly a very solid infield which could mean a lot more outs for the Dodger pitching staff. A pitching staff which now has added several ground ball arms like Brandon McCarthy could work like a well-oiled machine with the revamped infield. Perhaps this is what Andrew Friedman meant by a “highly functioning baseball team.”
I will be excited to see the first double play turned by new teammates Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick during Spring Training at Camelback Ranch. Last Spring I was watching Alex Guerrero, Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez practicing double plays on the back fields, but I have a feeling I will be seeing much more slick moves executed by the Rollins-Kendrick duo.
Even though Juan Uribe has never won a Gold Glove Award, the lovable third baseman has been defensively excellent at the hot corner for the Dodgers the past three seasons. I personally think he got robbed and deserved the honor for last season with a 2.0 dWAR and 6 errors from third base.
Adrian Gonzalez took home his fourth career Gold Glove Award last season and his first as a Dodger. Gonzo has always been solid at first base as well as reliable. Gonzalez has played in at least 156 games in 9 of his 11 years in the Majors. His 0.2 dWAR and 6 errors netted him the Gold Glove and the admiration of Dodger fans in 2014 for his defensive work.
Hopefully the Dodgers can resign Howie Kendrick after the 2015 season, because I already know that he will be a great defensive as well as offensive addition to the Dodgers. Kendrick hasn’t ever won a Gold Glove Award, but then again those awards don’t really reflect the real value of players and are merely a honorary award hence Uribe’s snubbing in 2013 and 2014 (okay Nolan Arenado is pretty amazing too). Kendrick put up a dWAR of 1.4 last season, and the 31-year old committed 11 errors from second base over 154 games. Comparatively, Gordon committed 12 errors last season in 144 games. Adrian pointed out that that while Gordon may be able to make more of the highly unlikely plays than Kendrick, Howie is able to execute the routine plays more often than Gordon.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has garnered the Gold Glove Award four times in his career. Going from Hanley to Rollins at shortstop is a defensive super upgrade to say the least. While Hanley is probably never going to play shortstop again over in the American League, the Dodgers will have a sure-handed glove in Rollins for 2015 until Corey Seager is ready to take over. Rollins posted a dWAR of 1.0 in 2014, and he committed 7 errors from short over 131 games for the Phillies.
While the new Dodger infield may not be as iconic as Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, Bill Russell and Steve Garvey were to the Dodgers, the revamped four-man team will certainly offer more defensive stability and most certainly remind us of the importance of a compatible infield.
Ground balls beware!