You know there is nothing going on when the main headline this week is about equipment trucks driving Dodger gear to Glendale, Arizona. Rest assured the trucks were filled with Tommy Lasorda bobbleheads. We can’t begin spring training without those. Seriously guys, if there are no Tommy bobbleheads then we have to close the gates until they arrive. No bobbleheads no spring training!
All kidding aside with spring training a week away this last week of the offseason should pass by at a snail’s pace. Waiting is the hardest part. Once the gates open and camps break there should be more newsworthy events than Frankie Montas’s rib surgery and a 1500 pound Tommy Lasorda bobblehead being trucked into Camelback Ranch.
In the meantime we can talk a bit about whether this year’s Dodgers are better or worse than last year’s Dodger squad. That is a tough question because many people have differing opinions. I still believe that last year’s club while being fundamentally flawed was a very good club with a few glaring weaknesses.
Did the club improve or decline this winter? That’s a tough one to answer. There was a big loss when Zack Greinke departed for the division rival Dbacks. On the other hand the Dodgers added a lot of talent by acquiring solid arms like Kenta Maeda, and Scott Kazmir. Retaining Howie Kendrick was a great move and the trade with the White Sox was one I also liked, even if Frankie Montas came over missing a rib or two.
Speaking of the pitching staff, making up for Greinke’s loss will be the toughest part for the Dodgers this season. Greinke had a historically great season, winning the ERA title, finishing second in the Cy Young award and posting a 6 WAR season in 2015. Can Maeda and Kazmir make up the difference? I think that is entirely possible.
Kazmir posted a 3.3 WAR with Oakland last year, and Maeda is projected for a 3.55 ERA and a 2.7 WAR according to fangraphs. I think it’s very possible that both of those hurlers have a 3-4 WAR season which would come close to Greinke’s 6-7 WAR. Kazmir and Maeda are not spectacular but solid. Maeda actually comes over with better numbers and pedigree than Hyun-jin Ryu had. We know how good Ryu has been for the Dodgers.
Speaking of Ryu, he’s projected to have close to a 2 WAR season which depends on his ability to recover from his shoulder problems. Brett Anderson is also projected in the same 1.5-2 WAR neighborhood. Not to mention the Dodgers still have Alex Wood, Mike Bolsinger, Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Carlos Frias, and Brandon McCarthy set to return from Tommy John surgery sometime after midseason. All of those guys will of course be set to pitch behind Clayton Kershaw who is projected to have his usual Cy Young type season.
To me innings and health are important when it comes to pitching. Maeda has pitched at least 175 innings in seven of his eight NPB seasons, including four 200+ seasons. Kazmir has made at least 29 starts and thrown 158 or more frames in the last three seasons himself. If both of those guys can stay healthy, they’ll not only give the Dodgers innings, but give them quality innings. I’ve said it before; you don’t have to have a bunch of aces behind Kershaw, just a bunch of quality arms that can give the club innings. I think the pitching staff has the possibility of being better than last year’s staff, or at least just as good.
Yes the Dodgers have some health concerns, but what team doesn’t? As for projected WAR on the offensive side, the Dodgers do have two players in the top 30. One of them is Yasiel Puig who is projected to post a 4.2 WAR (according to steamer) with 22 home runs and an .854 OPS. Adrian Gonzalez is projected to slug 24 home runs and drive in 75 runs with a 2.7 WAR. Seager is projected for a 3 WAR season.
Most projections see Puig having a huge year in 2016. I’m going to call it right now. Puig is going to bust out and have a terrific season and we will all be glad the Dodgers didn’t trade him. Having him as a huge force in the middle of the batting order will be a big advantage for the Dodgers. Don’t forget the Dodgers will have a full season of Corey Seager, the number one prospect in all of baseball.
If we take a look at the projected 2016 standings via fangraphs we can see that the Dodgers project to win 91 games in 2016 finishing in the top 5 in all of baseball. They’re projected to have a better run differential and runs allowed per game averages than 2015. No other team in the NL West is in the top five. The Giants are projected to finish six games behind the Dodgers and the Dbacks are projected to finish 12 games behind.
|2015 Year to Date
|2016 Projected Full Season
Did the Dodgers improve or decline this winter? As usual in life the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The Dodgers lost a huge arm in Zack Greinke, but gained two solid arms with Maeda and Kazmir. The brain trust was able to acquire even more prospects to an already outstanding farm system. The club retained their best clutch hitter (Howie Kendrick) on a team friendly contract.
Even though the Giants and Dbacks improved their starting rotations, the Dodgers are still the top team in the division. This is a deep and talented roster with one of the best farm systems in MLB. The Dodgers will win 90 games this year. They’ll make the playoffs this year. Will they be able to get over the hump and into the World Series? That is the real question.