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."
Not too bad. I said 95 wins and it looks like they'll finish with 93. Also my call that they could overcome injuries and that they may be seen as the best team in the league has played out. It gets worse though when I started talking about individual breakdowns of each facet of the team. It begins with the starting pitching. Hold back the laughter if you can.
My quote on the starting pitching:
"The starting staff of the Dodgers just may be the best in the game.I see each starter with at least 10 wins."
I wasn't too far off base. Kershaw (16 wins), Greinke (15 wins), Ryu (14), Nolasco (8 wins over 1/2 a season) , Fife/Beckett/Capuano (8 wins combined):
"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."
Ouch! Beckett? What was I thinking?
"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."
Well I was correct with the amount of Ryu's wins, but not so much on him running out of gas in the second half. Ryu has been strong to the end.
"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."
Uh, yeah...let's move on to the bullpen predictions.
"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."
Josh Wall? Gone. Tolleson? Out with injury. Guerra? Didn't make an impact in the majors this year. I never saw Chris Withrow entering into the mix, as he was a pleasant surprise. Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol weren't on the scene. Belisario, Paco, and Jansen performed as expected. League didn't. On to the starting outfield, these were my comments:
"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.
|Between May 6th and September 28th Carl Crawford failed to hit a home run. A power drought that few ever expected from the Dodger left fielder. (photo by Alex Gallardo/AP)|
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.
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 never said a word about Puig. I should have seen that he'd be called up at some time, but I didn't. The injuries to all the outfielders wasn't addressed. Those predictions on their numbers were far too optemistic. The three performers didn't even come close to them. It turns out that that type of production wasn't needed. If the Dodgers had received some of that production, they would have had a season that would have been record setting. In retrospect, I see that my predictions for those three were very lofty.
Found below are comments I made about the infield:
"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 announced, 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 big time.
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."
Where do I start? Luis Cruz I knew wasn't too good and had some flaws, but who could have predicted a .135 BA? Uribe's improvement I could see in the exhibition season as the new plate approach taught by McGwire was paying dividends. I never saw a .280 average though and good plate discipline (he has a .330 OBP) combined with a possible gold glove winning season. That was quite the shock this season. On Adrian Gonzlez, I said 23 HR with 100+ RBI. What did he finish with? 22 and 100. You know the saying about the blind squirrel? Well that was me on AGon. My call that Mark Ellis would be consistent at .260 with good defense was on the mark. Ellis finishes at around .270 and flawless "d" again.
What I didn't discuss was the monster season Hanley has had. Essentially Ramirez picked up the slack and provided the offensive production that was expected from the outfielders that went down with injury. I'm actually surprised that Hanley has returned to the form of his superstar years at Miami. Very pleasantly surprised. I also thought he'd be a defensive liability at shortstop when actually he has done quite well there with the glove.
On to the catchers:
"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."
|(photo by Christine Cotter/AP)|
Ellis' offensive production dropped significantly, but his defense was solid, especially his caught stealing ratio. But 10 homers and 52 RBI isn't bad production from the guy behind the dish. Plus he still works those counts like a fiend. Fedex has hit .234, which is about what I expected and adequate for a backup. Plus he does hit the occasional homer.
Next came the bench:
"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."
I failed to recognize that Van Slyke could emerge, but at the time of the prediction, he wasn't even on the 40 man roster. That power bat that came at the deadline ended up being Michael Young, who is a nice addition to the bench. Amezaga, Sellers and Castellanos-all non-factors.
Here were my final comments:
"Will this be 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."
I stand by that statement and think that the team has what it takes to be World Champions.
Below is how I predicted that the standings would be at the close of the season. To the right in "red" font are what that teams actual records are after 161 games. I'm way off on some, and rather close on others. Of the 10 teams I predicted to make post season play, only 4 are already in. What was I thinking about Boston in the AL East? Not very good. I still feel good about my World Series prediction, and I think there is a good chance that could actually occur.
|My picks for the World Series|
NL West Record after 161 games
Dodgers 95-67 92-69 (First place)
San Francisco 93-69 (Wildcard) 75-86 (Fourth)
Arizona 84-78 80-81 (Second)
San Diego 78-84 76-85 (Third)
Colorado 67-95 73-88 (Fifth)
Cincinnati 89-73 90-71 (Third - WC)
St. Louis 87-75 96-65 (First)
Milwaukee 83-79 74-87 (Fourth)
Pittsburgh 80-82 93-68 (Second -WC)
Chicago 64-97 66-95 (Fifth)
Washington 92-70 86-75 (Second)
Atlanta 90-72 (Wildcard) 95-66 (First)
Philadelphia 80-82 73-88 (Third -tied)
New York 77-85 73-88 (Third -tied)
Florida 63-98 61-100 (Fifth)
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 Record after 161 games
Anaheim 95-67 78-83 (Third)
Texas 92-70 (Wild Card) 90-71 (Second - possible WC)
Oakland 86-76 95-66 (First)
Seattle 74-88 70-91 (Fourth)
Houston 60-102 51-110 (Fifth)
Detroit 90-72 93-68 (First)
Chicago 89-73 (Wild Card) 63-98 (Fifth)
Kansas City 83-79 85-76 (Third)
Cleveland 77-85 91-70 (Second - possible WC)
Minnesota 75-87 66-95 (Fourth)
Toronto 89-73 74-87 (Fifth)
Tampa Bay 88-74 90-71 (Second - possible WC)
Baltimore 86-76 84-77 (Third -tied)
New York 86-76 84-77 (Third -tied)
Boston 77-85 97-64 (First)
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
Dodgers defeat Tigers in 5 games.