Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, March 30, 2013

As Opening Day Roster is Closer to Being Announced, It's Time for Predictions

Each year I scan the Dodger Schedule from start to finish.  The purpose of doing that is to usually plot out my schedule.  There are the days off from work that I coordinate with it.  There is the occasional vacation to a city on the road in which I’ll travel to, (as this year I plan to travel to Miami to watch a three game series there in August).  Also, there are the yearly early season predictions as well.  Something that this post addresses.

My detailed look at the schedule got me to calculating how the ball club will do.  My past prognostications haven’t been too hot, so don’t go run out and bet the farm on what I’m predicting.  I came in this time being dead set that I’d not be biased and that I wouldn’t predict that the Dodgers would win the whole enchilada simply because I was a fan.  I wanted to show some objectivity and fairness,  At least that’s what I was thinking going in to this exercise.

In the end though, after examining the schedule, game by game and series by series, I can’t help it.  The Dodgers will win the division.  They are simply the best team in the NL West, if not baseball.  Even with the early season injuries, I still see them having a championship season.  And get this, my prediction is even rosier than most others.  I see them winning 95 games.  

The starting staff of the Dodgers just may be the best in the game.  I see each starter with at least 10 wins.  I see two potential 20 game winners and with enough offensive support, possibly three if Beckett finds some magic.  That is unprecedented in today’s game, but  Kershaw, and Greinke have 20 game winning stuff.  Beckett should be much better in all the pitching friendly NL West parks.  Ryu will be a first half sensation and then he’ll  struggle a bit as the league starts to recognize his stuff and his tendencies, but I still see him finishing the year with 14-15 wins.  Billingsley, if healthy, will turn out to win at least 12 games.  If he goes down with injury, Capuano steps in and provides those wins.

(photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

The bullpen is stacked with talent that extends back to Albuquerque.  There is more depth in this bullpen than I can ever remember a Dodger pen having.  There are three guys that could be legitimate closers.   There are left handed stoppers, sinkerballers, fireball power pitchers, cutter throwers, and potential number five starters.  When the dog days of August hit, the bullpen depth will play a major role in helping the team weather through some inevitable rough patches.  Count on the guys in Albuquerque, such as Javy Guerra, Paco Rodriguez, Josh Wall and Shawn Tolleson to make some contributions when some of the original 25 man roster guys go down with injury.

Starting Lineup
The outfield is set.  With the Puig commotion this spring, fans were quick to speculate about trading Ethier and plugging the Cuban future sensation in right field, but it wasn’t to be.  The veteran threesome will put up respectable numbers that will be the envy of every team in the league.  Realistically I see Kemp with a stat line of 32 HR, 112 RBI, .302 BA, .371 OBP, .930 OPS.  He’s due for a fine comeback year and he’ll be a smarter player as well.  One of the things I believe he learned was to play defense a bit more conservatively in order to preserve his health.  As the year progresses and his shoulder gets stronger, we’ll see that right-centerfield power return.  

Carl Crawford is destined for a respectable comeback.  We saw signs of it this spring.  Wait until he’s really healthy.  Initially I believe we’ll see some teams taking extra bases on him while his arm heals up.  Watch for it as opponents singles to left will be attempted to be stretched into doubles.  Crawford’s offensive prowess will outweigh the weaknesses on defense caused by his healing throwing arm.  Look for 25 stolen bags from him and a respectable on base percentage in the .355 range.  We’ll see pop from the leadoff position that hasn’t been present since Davey Lopes.  Probably 16-18 homers.  100 runs scored from our leadoff guy sounds about right too.

(photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
If Ethier can provide 20 homers and 85 runs batted in with his normal near .300 average, that’ll be enough for this team.  As a late inning clutch hitter with the game on the line, Ethier can be magical.  Look for a few more of those magical moments again this year.  I still think he shouldn’t be in the lineup against left handed pitching, but that’s another post altogether.

I’m a believer in searching for the silver lining when bad news occurs and as devastating as Hanley Ramirez’s injury is to the Dodger offense, the infield defense will be much improved without the Dominican star playing at shortstop.  Cruz has mediocre to poor range, but the balls he gets to are fielded steadily.  Uribe flashes nearly flawless leather at third and Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez  simply don’t make mistakes on the field.  That quartet will save the pitching staff some runs.

With the final roster decisions not yet annnounced, suddenly Justin Sellers’ name has surfaced into the mix.  I found that surprising, but as a defensive specialist at short, his insertion into the lineup will not be a major game changer.  Sellers has a lot more range than Cruz, and Mattingly must be seeing that and weighing the variables of stronger infield defense versus his weaker bat batting 8th in the lineup.

There are concerns about Uribe’s offensive ineptitude, but Mark McGwire seems to have helped his approach this Spring.  He’s going to the opposite field more often.  He’s more patient at the plate.  Maybe Uribe will contribute this year.  He still has that “swing from the heels” approach at the plate, but not as much as before and he’s not stepping in the bucket as he was last year.

Cruz is what he is, a player that is a fairly free swinger who won’t take a lot of walks.  But he’s an enthusiastic spark plug at times and was arguably the most surprising Dodger player last year.  He has occasional pop and a penchant for clutch hitting, and that is a valuable commodity these days.  I know the sabermetric minds don’t like him, but Cruz’s intangibles make him valuable to me.

Mark Ellis is your model of consistency.  A team player.  A guy that moves the runner over.  He’ll take pitches when needed.  A .260 hitter that makes few mistakes, even though that base running error against the Giants in game number 161 was a biggie last year.  Guys like Mark Ellis are often overlooked until they are missing from the lineup for an extended time.  Losing Ellis last season hurt the Dodgers bug time.

(photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Adrian Gonzalez, even in a poor season, gives the Dodgers twice the player that they had in James Loney, and that should be good for a few wins next season.  Look for AGon to hit at least 23 homers and drive in a hundred plus wile playing great defense.  He's a quiet leader and his fit on this team is perfect, as he won't be expected to be the key ingredient to success.  He's another important cog in the wheel, and that is the perfect role for him.

Behind the plate, A.J. Ellis is about as underrated a catcher in the game.  The man is a walk machine and he works counts like no other.  I see that continuing as he’ll have a .375 OBP and .280 BA.  Spelling Ellis once or twice per week will be rookie Tim Federowicz who will far outperform last year’s Treanor and hit in the .240 range while providing occasional pop and steady defense.

The candidates are Hairston, Punto, Schumacher, Castellanos, Sellers, Amezaga, Fedex.  Nobody that’ll scare you to death, but steady bench players, all who can be plugged into the starting lineup at anytime.  What I like about these guys is that many can play multiple positions.  They’re total utility guys. There isn’t a power threat bat on the bench, but watch for a trade deadline move to fill that role.

The Pressure
With a record $220 million plus infused into the Dodger roster, the expectations are sky high with this Dodger team.  Pundits across the nation are predicting that they overtake the Giants and win the division.  Many have the Dodgers slated to reach the Fall Classic.  We as fans are expecting it.  Ownership is too.  The coaching staff’s future is on the line.  These guys have to win and win now.

Two San Francisco Giant World Series Championships in three years is unacceptable to this ownership group.  The Dodgers must succeed or some ugly consequences will result.  Whether this pressure will affect the team is tough to tell, but at some point in the season, they’ll feel it.    That’ll be the true “gut check” time for these players.  There are enough veterans on the club to overcome that and win out in the end. 

(photo by Don Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Dodger broke out to a 30-13 record out of the gate last year and then fell flat in June in a miserable slump.  Injuries could not be overcome.  For injuries to destroy this season, a lot of dominoes would need to fall at once, but it has happened before.

Health will be a key factor.  There appears to be plenty of depth in the pitching ranks if injuries hit the staff hard.  I can’t say the same about the infield if another player falls to injury.  Hanley Ramirez will probably not be himself until close to the all star break as he’ll need a few weeks of rehab to get back to his normal self.  The reserves will need to step up for a few months.

An Exciting Year for the Ages?
It’s possible.  Dodger championships were won 25 and 50 years ago, so the symmetry lines up.  2013 should be as 1963 and 1988 were.  Many times we look at a Dodger roster at the beginning of the season and say “if everything falls into place, they can win this thing.”  This year there are so many pieces in place that everything doesn’t have to fall into place, simply some or most of the pieces must do so.  There is simply more depth on this team.   That’s what a record payroll does for you.  Everyone doesn’t need to have career years in order for the Dodgers to be 2013 World Series Champions.

My MLB Predictions for 2013 are as follows:

NL West
Dodgers 95-67
San Francisco 93-69 (Wildcard)
Arizona 84-78
San Diego 78-84
Colorado 67-95

NL Central
Cincinnati 89-73
St. Louis 87-75
Milwaukee 83-79
Pittsburgh 80-82
Chicago 64-97

NL East
Washington 92-70
Atlanta 90-72 (Wildcard)
Philadelphia 80-82
New York 77-85
Florida 63-98

San Francisco wins the one game playoff over Altanta
Dodgers defeat Cincinnati in 6 games
San Francisco defeat Washington in 7 games

Dodgers defeat San Francisco in 7 games

AL West
Anaheim 95-67
Texas 92-70 (Wild Card)
Oakland 86-76
Seattle 74-88
Houston 60-102

AL Central
Detroit 90-72
Chicago 89-73 (Wild Card)
Kansas City 83-79
Cleveland 77-85
Minnesota 75-87

AL East
Toronto 89-73
Tampa Bay 88-74
Baltimore 86-76
New York 86-76
Boston 77-85

Texas defeats Chicago in one game playoff
Anaheim defeats Toronto in 6 games
Detroit defeats Texas in 7 games
Detroit defeats Anaheim in 7 games

World Series
Dodgers defeat Tigers in 5 games.

Will the Dodgers be celebrating the final out of the World Series as they were 50 years ago?

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