Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Everything Isn't All Sunshine...There are Serious Concerns About This Dodger Team

(The Leo Durocher Series (part 3) will continue in a future post, interrupted by this current Dodger update post). 

I hate to be the guy that bursts the bubble of positivity that most fans are feeling, but I just don’t get that positive vibe going in to the 2013 season that most fans are feeling.   One day after a glorious fan fest, where everyone seems to be happy about the state of things and Tommy Lasorda is predicting that we’ll be dancing in the streets in October, I just see a lot of tenuous pieces in place with the Dodgers.  Optimism is not something I’m feeling at the moment.  This whole thing could blow up just with a few pieces not falling into place.  In fact, I almost believe that everything must turn out positively for the Dodgers to be successful in 2013.
Lasorda, "We'll be dancing in the streets in October." (photo by Jon Soo Hoo, Los Angeles Dodgers)

There are a lot of question marks facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 and I find that a bit disturbing as ownership has spent a major league record $220 million in payroll for this season alone.  If things are so rosey, why is it the Red Sox fans were ecstatic to rid themselves of all that excess payroll and baggage last year?
There are so many question marks.  Third base.  Carl Crawford’s return from injury.  The second base position.  No true leadoff hitter. Matt Kemp’s recovery from the torn labrum in his shoulder.  Andre Ethier’s inability to hit lefties.  Chad Billingsley’s refusal to go under the knife for TJ surgery.  That’s a lot of big “ifs” and there are more too.
So much can go wrong.  I mean a lot of them.  So many  that I’m surprised that some pundits are already picking the Dodgers to win the division. Should I continue? I will:   Hanley Ramirez’s ability to play shortstop.  Kenley Jansen’s return from open heart surgery.  Brandon League placed in the closer’s role after only a month in the position.   Adrian Gonzalez and his poor performance last year and historically at Dodger Stadium. 
An analysis of each position could be made and nothing appears to be a sure thing with this club.   
Here’s my first concern: Mattingly’s insistence of playing Hanley Ramirez at shortstop.  
(photo by Allen J. Schaben/L.A. Times)
We saw how lacking he was there defensively last year.  We also were told that he’d work at the position during this Dominican Winter League.  Well...that didn’t happen.  Hanley hurt his shoulder playing for Licey and then he DH’d his way through that season.  How serious the injury was, we don’t know, but there should be some concerns about that as well.  Now, with the dreaded World Baseball Classic breaking up 3/4 of the Dodger infield in Spring Training, (AGon and Luis Cruz playing for Mexico and HRam with the D.R.), a quick fix during the exhibition season doesn’t appear to be in the works.  To make matters worse, Ramirez won’t even be playing a defensive position in the WBC, which makes me wish he would just bag the international tournament all together.  Can the Dodgers address this with him?
Second concern: Adrian Gonzalez.  His record as an offensive player in Dodger Stadium is not a small sample size.  He has over 230 lifetime at bats in Chavez Ravine and aside from a small sampling at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, Gonzalez struggles more at Dodger Stadium than any other ball park in the major leagues.  We saw him pressing last September during the pennant race, and it wasn’t pretty.  Can AGon turn things around?  I hope so but this should be a big concern.
Third Concern: Matt Kemp has not faced live pitching yet and is saying that he has “good days and bad days” in his rehab.  I know it’s early, but players that have had the same surgery claim that April and May he will not be 100%.  I believe he needs to recover fully and perhaps regain his strength completely before inserting himself in the lineup.  We all saw what returning from injury early did to him last year.  Also, I hate to say it, but in the back of my mind I remember that players like Shawn Green and Eric Karros were never the same after the same injury and surgery.
Fourth concern: The bullpen.  League has barely any experience as a closer.  Kenley Jansen had surgery for a “life threatening” condition.  Belisario melted down this off-season and can hardly be counted as reliable. Guerra’s confidence is shot.  Elbert is out with surgery again. Tolleson and Paco are looking great, but they’re young.  I haven’t even mention Guerrier and his troubles.  There is a lot of depth here with the new minor league contract acquisitions and an odd man out starter going to the pen (Capuano, Harang , or Lilly), but the back end of the pen is a concern.  I’m wondering how effective a guy like Harang would be in the closer’s role.  If he’s allowed to air things out for one inning, he might be closer material who could pump out 95+ MPH fastballs along with the arsenal of other pitches he has in hi s repertoire.
(photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Fifth Concern:  All appearances are that the Dodgers are going into the season with Luis Cruz earmarked to start at third base.  As great as he was last year, it may be foolish to assume that a career .255 hitter in the minor leagues will suddenly start to rake in the majors as he did last year.  It's a great story and I hope I'm wrong, but Cruz doesn't have the pop or on base percentage to be a starting third baseman.   Considering that he stunk things up in the Mexican Winter Leagues doesn't crank up the confidence meter either.  Also, there is still Juan Uribe on the roster and the Dodger brass' believe that Mark MacGwire will be able to straighten him out.
Sixth Concern:  Ethier can't hit lefties.  He never has, and he never will.  Mattingly will not platoon him as he should, so that is going to hurt this team about 25% of the time when they face a southpaw.
Seventh Concern:  Everybody is going to be gunning for the Dodgers.  There has been so much talk about the high payroll and expectations are so high, that falling short will be something that is very possible and will bring a lot of pleasure to rivals.  Especially when you consider that everything must fall into place perfectly for things to play out for a championshpi season.  That's a lot of pressure on the guys.
So those are my major concerns.  And I haven't even addressed the Carl Crawford injury, the Billingsley injury, lack of a lead off hitter, the Dee Gordon mess, Ryu's acquisition and lofty expectations for a guy that has never pitched a major league inning before, and Puig's lackluster performance in Puerto Rico
Guess I'm the party pooper, but somebody had to say something.


  1. Hmmmm... you make excellent points!

    I feel like this team has much improved. Just compare opening day of last year to this year. There is no question what lineup we'd want. I guess I have no choice but to be optimistic.I was going to write how optimistic I was about the team, but that would take too long! Lets just hope most of the rightful concerns you listed pan out ^^

  2. Every team has questions, but i like our starting 5 better than anyone elses in the division and we all know pitching wins championships.

  3. Those are very legitimate concerns. I have seen similar concerns expressed on a couple of blogs.

    In order for the Dodgers to have the type of season many think they are primed to have, the stars indeed must align. That is Gonzalez, Ramirez, Kemp, Kershaw, Crawford, Ethier, Greinke, Billingsley.

    I am not so much concerned about health as I am underachievement. I am concerned about Adrian's power decline in the past four years. Fenway, imo, was not the reason. Maybe it was health and not the natural progression as a hitter gets older.

    I am concerned about defense. I think the pitching will be OK with Chad the biggest question mark. He has defied the odds of success by not having had the TJ surgery last summer. We will have to wait to see how Ryu adjusts. I expect Beckett to have a good year as a middle of rotation starter.

    But, all in all, I would take this lineup by far over the 2012 starting lineup. The Dodgers definitely have a potential that was not there last April. The task is to tap that potential and make the stars align. A good start is essential and not playing catch up from the start.

  4. Matt, Good point about the pitching. I believe in the adage that good pitching beats good hitting, though I know that are some that argue that point.

    Harold, On your comments about Adrian Gonzalez. His power numbers seemed to decrease right around the time that he had the torn labrum surgery...the same thing that Kemp just had. It is a concern, that's for sure.