|Hanley Ramirez does a dance to avoid colliding with AJ Pollack in last night's action. Los Angeles has started off 3-0 against Arizona this season. (photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP)|
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Early Season Start is Acceptable, Holding Up Against Division Foes and the Routine Injuries
Last season the Dodgers struggled against the division. It wasn't the conventional way to win the NL West, but that's the way things were nonetheless. You're taking a dangerous route to a championship when you underperform and go 37-39 against your direct competition and the teams you are competing against in nearly 50% of your contests.
But the unconventional was the norm in 2013, and the Giants, who had the best record against the rest of the NL West at 44-26, only played .344 ball (32-60) against everybody else, ended up 16 games out of the hunt. Don't expect that to repeat this year, but I would not expect the Dodgers to falter at a below .500 clip against the division either. It'll be a tight race between the Northern and Southern California rivals, as it should be.
"We know we're going to have to play good baseball as our division has gotten better," chimed Don Mattingly before the season began to MLB Network's Dan Plesac. His statement appears to be true on most fronts, though the D-Backs have got off to a rough start, as expected the Giants are going to be formidable. The Dodgers will have their hands full with them before next weekend is out after a 3 game set at AT&T Park. Look for the Dodgers to raise up and take two of three there.
A 7-4 start out of the blocks isn't something anyone should be disappointed with, especially with he likes of Kershaw, Wilson and AJ Ellis sidelined. With 151 games to go, Los Angeles knows how to overcome injuries, as they did so in 2013 on numerous occasions. Fact is, it is the norm for this ball club to be snakebite with injuries on a continuous basis. It's something that we are simply getting used to, and good ball clubs are able to overcome injuries.
The four man outfield is working out as planned, with always someone suffering a twinge or a sprain here and there. If Matt Kemp can stay quiet about it and not ruffle any feathers, there should be sufficient playing time for all four guys in the tandem, and even some more for Scott Van Slyke too.
The pitching staff is missing their most key component amongst starters and their set up man in the bullpen, but that was the situation last season too with Greinke out for a couple of months and Brandon League faltering. Add to that the injuries to Beckett and Bilingsley shortly thereafter. If all goes according to plan, I see the staff being stronger for the Dodgers at this point of the season than they were last year, mainly because Billingsley will be back for the second half and Kershaw won't be out there toiling for too many innings as he has since 2010.
If the Dodgers are able to keep themselves out of any major ruts, such as last season's last place performance between April and early June, they'll be right just where they are expected at the September stretch run. Watch for this team to break away around then, as the mesh of injured players currently will be hitting their stride at the most important point of the season, and not fading due to fatigue. Those injuries might be a blessing in disguise.
After spending my first week living on the east coast, I must say that I have an incredible amount of respect for those Dodger fans that stay up night after night to start watching the Dodgers play at 10:00 pm EST. I'm having a difficult time adjusting to this and don't know if I can keep it up. Kudos to those great fans on this side of the country who are able to continue with their allegiances from afar.