This could be the year the Dodgers break their World Series drought. Lots of folks believe it, from the never say die, blue-tinted lens wearers, to the cold and calculating, sabre-metric heads. This really could be the year.
The last time the Dodgers won the World Series was a generation ago. Tommy Lasorda is much older and slower, but thankfully, he’s still with us. The 1988 catcher has gone on to win a World Series title as a manager in the American league, and their ace pitcher is now a member of the tv broadcasting team.
I thought it would be fun to take a look at the two teams, the 1988 champions and this year’s squad, and see how they stack up against one another. Let’s begin:
Starting pitching 1988. We’ll go with the big five who began the season.
The Bulldog won 15 complete games. Tim Leary, next best, had nine. The staff threw 31 CGs in all. It truly was a different game back then. Needless to say, the bullpen will be a much more important factor in 2017 than it was for this group.
Hershiser dominated. At one point he broke the MLB record with a 59 inning scoreless streak. Leary and Belcher were strong, while Fernando and Sutton had lackluster, losing seasons.
Here are the 2016 stats for the Dodgers 2017 starting pitchers.
Rich Hill only pitched 34 innings for the Dodgers, with 39 Ks, a 1.83 ERA, a 1.3 WAR and 0.79 WHIP.
Brandon McCarthy didn’t give much more, as he only pitched 40 innings. He had 44 Ks and 26 walks (26! Yikes!), with a 0.2 WAR and 1.38 WHIP.
Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t even pitch in 2016.
The edge clearly goes to the 1988 starting pitchers.
1988 Relief pitchers:
The 1988 bullpen, led by Jay Howell and Alejandro Pena.was solid.
Jay Howell had 70 Ks over 65 innings, with 21 saves and a 2.08 ERA.
Pena had the most innings out of the pen, with 94.1 and 83 Ks. He chalked up 12 more saves and a 1.91 ERA. In 94 innings, he only gave up four home runs.
The 2017 Dodgers give us the best closer in Dodgers’ history. There are strong possibilities in new Dodger, Sergio Romo, and southpaws Luis Avilan, and Adam Liberatore. Everyone else is a toss-up.
Despite Jansen, I give the edge to the ’88 bullpen.
1988 outfield: John Shelby, Kirk Gibson and Mike Marshall.
John Shelby was steady, but not spectacular in CF, and he was a slightly above average hitter. Not much power, and a little streaky, but when he was hitting, he was red-hot. His slash line for 1988 was .263/.320/.395 with 10 home runs and 64 RBIs. He had a 24-game hitting streak and good speed on the bases with 16 swiped bags.
What can I say about Kirk Gibson that hasn’t been said a thousand times over? Bulldog led the team on the mound, but Gibby led from every other possible angle. He was the epitome of a spark plug – heck, he was a human torch. Gibson hit .290/.377/.483 with 25 home runs, 31 steals (31!), 76 RBIs, and 106 runs scored.
Mike Marshall never really lived up to his potential, but he had a steady and productive 1988. Marshall brought a big bat behind Gibby in the lineup, and he delivered with a line of .277/.314/.445 with 20 homers and 27 doubles.
2017 outfield: Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Andrew Toles.
Young Joc hit .246/.352/.495 with 25 homers, 26 doubles and 68 RBIs. He only stole 2 bases, but he’s got the potential for a lot more. He put up these numbers as a platoon player, but if he can hit RH pitching, that platooning will end this season.
Yasiel Puig also platooned and spent time in the minors in 2016. He hit .263/.323/.416 with just 11 home runs and 14 doubles. I’m looking for a healthy and attitude-adjusted Puig to bust out this season.
Andrew Toles was cheated last season by the acquisition of Mr. Smoke and Mirrors, Josh Reddick. As a result, Toles only had 105 ABs. He put up a line of .314/.365/.505 and 16 RBIs in 2016.
Toles had a strong spring, and he caught a break when Andre Ethier went on the DL, opening a slot in left field. He’s had a couple of misplays with the glove, but look for Toles to tear it up this year at the plate and to use his speed on the base paths to regularly turn double into triples.
Even if Toles should not live up to expectations, the Dodgers could plug in Trayce Thompson, and that would not be a bad thing.
The boys had Gibby in 1988, but I’m going with the outstanding potential this group is showing to give the 2017 Dodgers the edge in outfielders.
1988 Infield: Pedro Guerrero, Steve Sax, Alfredo Griffin, Jeff Hamilton.
The Dodgers played infield bingo and shifted players around that year as they dealt with an injured Pedro Guerrero whose bat was too good to keep on the bench, and Mike Davis, whose bat was too hollow to keep on the field.
Guerrero started the season at third base and later went to first base – which Mike Marshall to the outfield and Davis to the bench. Jeff Hamilton then took over third.
Guerrero put up a line of .298/.374/.409 with five dingers and 35 RBI for the Dodgers in just 59 games. He was then dealt to St. Louis for John Tudor.
Steve Sax was Mr. Second Base and the lead off batter for the Dodgers in ’88. He hit .277/.325/.343 and stole a hefty 42 bases.
Alfredo Griffin was a light-hitting, but decent shortstop. That’s about the best I can say about him.
Jeff Hamilton became the Dodgers’ regular third baseman when Pedro Guerrero moved to first base. He excelled at making a nice semi-circle with his cleat in the clay at third base. He didn’t necessarily hurt the team at third, but he didn’t particularly help at the plate either. And that’s the best I can say about him.
2017 Dodgers infield: Adrian Gonzalez, Jeff Forsythe, Corey Seager, Justin Turner.
Adrian Gonzalez: His power is down (possibly gone), but I expect him to be steady at the plate, a la Tony Gwynn. He’s an Iron Man and plays solid first base defense. (He may be petered out by July)
Forsythe had a very good spring and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue into the regular season.
Corey Seager…2016 Rookie of the Year and just getting started. ‘Nuff said.
Justin Turner just keeps getting better every year. He just finished a strong spring suggesting the same for 2017.
Hands down, this infield runs circles around the 1988 infield, both defensively and offensively.
1988 Catcher: Mike Scioscia
Scioscia hit .257/.318/.324 with just three home runs, but the man was literally solid as a rock behind the plate. He threw out 41% of base-stealers and anchored the Dodgers’ pitching staff to number two in the National League. In 1988 nobody blocked a plate better than Mike Scioscia. Nobody.
2017 Catcher: Yasmani Grandal
Grandal’s offensive numbers in 2016 were .228/.339/.477. The BA was anemic, but the power can be found in 27 homers, 14 doubles and a very good 72 RBIs. Bonus: He’s a switch hitter. Defensively, they say he’s one of the top pitch framers in the game, but he only threw out 28% of base stealers.
Scioscia was a rock, but today’s catchers don’t need to be. Grandal’s power gives him the edge over his ’88 counterpart.
In 1988 the Dodgers’ bench famously referred to themselves as “The Stuntmen”. Made up of such players as Mickey Hatcher, Franklin Stubbs and Rick Dempsey, they were a solid crew who seamlessly stepped in whenever called upon. While being a testament to their talent and abilities, it also points to the average-ness of many of the Dodger position players in 1988. Nevertheless, they also had an uncanny knack for making the right play, and occasionally a very big play, at exactly the right time.
The Dodgers will be looking for flexibility from Chase Utley, Scott Van Slyke and Enrique Hernandez off the bench. In the name of depth, they purposefully chose players that can handle more than one position.
Like Scott, I’m not sold on Hernandez, and unlike many others, I think Van Slyke has maxed out his potential, settling in as mediocre with the bat and the glove.
My vote goes to the talented Stuntmen from 1988.
It’s the legendary Tommy Lasorda v last season’s Manager of the Year, Dave Roberts. It’s a tough call, as Roberts clearly knows the game and his players. I can see him winning multiple championships with the right players and autonomy. There’s a lot to like about Doc, but c’mon…it’s Tommy, the greatest motivator the Dodgers have ever seen.
The edge goes to Tommy Lasorda.
Let’s check the score:
The 1988 Dodgers win with SP, the Bullpen, Bench and Manager.
The 2017 Dodgers take the Outfield, Infield and Catcher.
It was close, but the win goes to the 1988 squad. The real point here is the teams are very close in talent and it comes down to choosing six of this or a half-dozen of the other.
This squad is very, very good, which bides well for the 2017 Dodgers and their quest to bring the first World’s Championship to Los Angeles in 23 years.