2014 NL West Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Embrace the hate. Feel it warm you. Let it soak into every fiber of your being.

It's probably significant than no-one on the SnakePit staff wanted to write this preview.

Relevant Facts

Probable Lineup
  1. Yasiel Puig RF
  2. Carl Crawford LF
  3. Hanley Ramirez SS
  4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
  5. Matt Kemp CF
  6. Juan Uribe 3B
  7. A.J. Ellis C
  8. Dee Gordon 2B

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/14/3995369/los-angeles-dodgers-2014-preview.html#storylink=cpy
Probable Rotation
  1. Clayton Kershaw (L)
  2. Zack Greinke (R)
  3. Hyun-Jin Ryu (L)
  4. Dan Haren (R)
  5. Josh Beckett (R)
Bullpen Pieces
Bench
Notable Injured Players
  • Josh Beckett P: thumb (mid-April)
  • Chad Billingsley P: Tommy John surgery (late May)
  • Scott Elbert P: Tommy John surgery (mid-season)
  • Zack Greinke P: strained calf (day to day)
  • Matt Kemp OF: ankle surgery (early April)

Overview

On June 21st last year, the Dodgers lost 5-2 to the Padres, despite having Clayton Kershaw on the mound and San Diego losing their starter, for the season, after two pitches. The loss dropped Los Angeles to 30-42, and a staggeringly bad 9-23 against the rest of the division. They sat last in the National League West, five and a half back of fourth place. Sigh. Happy times, eh? Of course, we all know what happened. The Dodgers were seven games better than anyone else in baseball the rest of the way, and over 20 better than anyone in the NL West, including a 42-8 streak, not matched in over 70 years.

The good news: they're not likely to do that again. The bad news: nor are they likely to be 12 games below .500 in late June. After four years of one and done winners in this division, Los Angeles are the overwhelming favorites to retain their title, and barring injuries to key personnel, it's hard to argue a case against them. It's not as if the team lost key components over the winter, though the departures of Ellis and Punto leave their middle infield perhaps the weakest area. Yasiel Puig won't have a .383 BABIP again either. But even still, it's largely the same line-up which lead the NL in position player fWAR last year.

One suspects that will be plenty of support for an pitching staff which sees the return of Cy Young winner Kersaw, plus Greinke and Ryu, who combined last season to go 45-21 with a 2.44 ERA. The back of the rotation doesn't look too shabby either, Haren and Beckett each having three All-Star appearances and a pair of Cy Young top 10 finishes on their resumes. In terms of depth, they've got Maholm and Brandon League, plus should get Billingsley back later in the season, providing his rehab from Tommy John goes as planned. If there's a better rotation, top-to-bottom, in the National League, I'm not aware of it. [Washington may be close, depending how Strasburg is]

The bullpen's going to be particularly fun to root against, with a full season of loathing Brian Wilson to power us. You thought he was irritating as a Giant? He'll now be positively insufferable as a Dodger, earning $10 million in a set-up role: hey, at least we're not the only ones in the division to be overpaying for eighth-inning work. The only positive is knowing San Francisco fans will be even more annoyed by his presence in Los Angeles. In comparison, Kenley Jansen projects to be worth several less WAR (Wilson Annoyance Rating), unless he also grows a beard and turns into a self-aware hipster.

The Dodgers' payroll this year will be $76 million more than anyone else in the division - a gap enough to pay the salary bill of four entire franchises. Sure, spending smarter is part of the equation, and some of the big contracts could go south quickly. But it's hard to spend $115 million smarter, as the Diamondbacks currently have to do. Guess we know how our expansion siblings over in Tampa felt, earlier in the third millennium, when the New York Yankees were hoovering up free agents like Jordan Belfort ingesting cocaine. I have nightmares that involve the Dodgers winning nine consecutive division titles, like the Yankees did.

On the other hand, we saw early on last year how little tolerance there is for failure in LaLa Land, and if things don't go well, there'll be no Puig and Ramirez to ride to the rescue this time. If not necessarily likely, it's still possible to imagine the Dodgers imploding in a critical mass of overpaid egos and media pressure. It wouldn't be pretty, but I'd happily engage in some rubber-necking for that car-crash, because nothing is more American than watching the rich, famous and obnoxious self-destruct on television.

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