Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 Los Angeles Dodgers' midseason analysis and grades

This has been one of the stranger Dodger seasons I have ever witnessed. They've gone from baseball's best team to possibly baseball's worst lineup. Despite that, they still hold a half-game lead over the Giants in the National League West.

The Dodgers are 47-40 and will get healthy following the All-Star Break. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier should both be back in the lineup, giving it some much needed punch. Mark Ellis is already back and the starting rotation, save Ted Lilly, has been healthy and good the entire season. The bullpen, despite some perception, has been strong once again.

Dodgers' first-half grade: B
- This would have been higher if the team had been better while Kemp was out. It's hard to lose baseball's best player and still be a good team, but the offense was historically bad for a stretch last month. Still, the pitching has kept them in most every game and the bullpen, despite injuries, has been solid again. The Dodgers once had a 7 1/2 game lead on the Giants, so it's a little disappointing to see it only at a half-game right now. But at this time last year, they were 11 games behind the Giants, so they're definitely in a better position this year. The patchwork lineup (outside of Kemp and Ethier) has been good enough thus far. It'll be interesting to see what's in store for the second half.

Here's my grade breakdown of all the players who have played on the team this season.

A.J. Ellis
.285/.404/.425, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 43 BB, 3.0 fWAR
- Ellis has been nothing short of amazing this season. I penned a post about him in May when he was on fire. He's fallen off a bit since then, but his .404 on-base percentage leads the team (Kemp excluded). He was once thought to be a part of the worst catching unit in the majors. Now, he's a top 10 catcher in baseball. Grade: A

James Loney
.247/.309/.333, 2 HR, 24 RBI, -0.2 fWAR
- This is pretty much typical Loney at this point in his career. His glove is outstanding, but nothing else about his game is. He's struggled the entire first half after finishing 2011 on such a strong note. The Dodgers nearly acquired Carlos Lee (thank you for invoking your no-trade clause) to replace Loney, so it's clear the Dodgers are at their wit's end with Loney. I wouldn't expect him to be the Dodgers' first baseman post-July 31. Grade: F

Mark Ellis
.271/.371/.361, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 1.5 fWAR
- Ellis was among the leaders in runs scored when the Dodgers were hot in April. He was a stabilizing presence in the lineup until he suffered a leg injury in May. It was so serious that he was close to having his leg amputated. Thankfully (and obviously), that didn't happen. He's been back for a week and should help the lineup improve in the second half. Oh, and that 100-point difference in batting average and on-base percentage is a welcoming, wonderful sight. Grade: B+

Dee Gordon
.229/.280/.282, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 30 SB, -0.8 fWAR
- Gordon has been up and down this season, and when he's been up, it hasn't been that high up. He does lead the majors in stolen bases at 30, but he's not even pulling a .300 on-base percentage. Could you imagine? He was even removed from the leadoff spot (to eighth) for a time and seemed to get back on track. But that didn't last. Gordon just suffered a dislocated thumb and will be out until sometime in August or even early September. His defense has been less-than stellar, which was expected. Being the leadoff man for a playoff-contending team is a lot of pressure for a guy in his first full season, but the ability is there. However, I expected Gordon to be better than he's been so far. Grade: D+

Juan Uribe
.194/.250/.271, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 0.0 fWAR
- Laugh. Out. Loud. Grade: ... Is there anything worse than an "F"?

Bobby Abreu
.272/.371/.377, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 0.7 fWAR
- When Abreu was signed, I didn't think much of it. He, like a lot of Dodgers this season, got off to a fast start before tailing off significantly in June. But he was a cheap pickup and has produced more than I expected. Going forward, his playing time needs to be reduced so his effectiveness doesn't suffer. Grade: B-

Matt Kemp
.355/.444/.719, 12 HR, 28 RBI, 2.3 fWAR
- Kemp was on a torrid pace before injuring his hamstring in May. He came back two weeks later and promptly injured it again. That flat-out sucked. The Dodgers have suffered mightily without him. He still leads the team in home runs despite playing just two games since May 13. He just finished a four-game rehab stint in the minors and participated in the Home Run Derby on Monday (still bested Mike Piazza's mark of zero home runs). He's ready to go. Grade: A- (because of injury)

Andre Ethier
.291/.357/.491, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 2.6 fWAR, $85 million
- Ethier got off to a hot start and was promptly rewarded with a 5-year, $85 million contract extension with the Dodgers. He was once the NL leader in RBI and leads the team. He's the team's second-best hitter and finished his first half on the disabled list for a strained oblique. Like Kemp, though, he should be good to go on Friday for the start of the second half. Grade: B

Clayton Kershaw
6-5, 2.91 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 0.2 fWAR
- Kershaw has "struggled" a little this season. Hell, 95 percent of pitchers would love to "struggle" like he has. However, he hasn't been as sharp as he was last season. His slider isn't doing the things it did last year. It's gone from his best pitch his worst pitch. Despite that, his peripherals are still great and I'm expecting a strong second half from the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Grade: B+

Chad Billingsley
4-9, 4.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 0.3 fWAR
- I think I'm going to start calling him the enigma. Billingsley has the tools to be a No. 2 starter, but consistency is his issue. Some are calling for him to be traded, some are calling for him to be demoted to the bullpen. Whatever the reason for his struggles, Billingsley still has a world of ability and the Dodgers need him to pitch better in the second half. Grade: C+

Ted Lilly
5-1, 3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 0.0 fWAR
- Lilly got off to a great start before injuring his shoulder. The injury is reportedly so severe the Dodgers are looking for a starting pitcher prior to the trade deadline. Lilly wasn't striking a lot of guys out, but he was still effective. I don't know if his numbers would look this good had he not been hurt. A low K/9 and poor K/BB (the latter is an abnormality for him) is playing with fire. Still, he was effective while healthy. Grade: B

Chris Capuano
9-4, 2.91 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 0.1 fWAR
- Capuano has done a good job replacing Hiroki Kuroda this season and has been the Dodgers' most consistent pitcher in my eyes. He's pitching over his head a bit, but he's been effective and I'm hoping it continues. I don't expect him to finish the season with a sub-3 ERA, but, as of now, he's the Dodgers' No. 2 starter (not that it means much). Grade: A-

Aaron Harang
6-5, 3.51 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, -0.1 fWAR
- Harang hasn't been as good as Capuano, but he's been solid. That 1.42 WHIP doesn't translate to a mid-3 ERA (neither does his 4.0 BB/9 and 1.77 K/BB), so something will have to give in the second half. But for a No. 5 starter, the Dodgers can't really expect or ask much more. Grade: B-

Nathan Eovaldi
1-5, 4.21 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 4.6 K/9, 0.0 fWAR
- Eovaldi was stellar until his last two starts in June (10 1/3 IP, 17 H, 13 ER, 1 K). He stepped in admirably for the injured Lilly and should remain in the rotation until Lilly is healthy or another starter is inevitably acquired. Eovaldi has made strides with his breaking stuff (particularly his curveball) and has been getting beat on his fastball a bit this season. He'll need to develop more consistency and miss a few more bats going forward. Grade: C

Ronald Belisario
3-0, 1.53 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 0.2 fWAR
- I was not in favor of Belisario getting a spot in the bullpen despite not pitching in 2011. But I was clearly wrong on this one. Belisario had a great first half and stepped for the injured Matt Guerrier. His sub-2 ERA and sub-1 WHIP isn't exactly sustainable, but the Dodgers might as well ride him until he crashes. Grade: A-

Scott Elbert
1-1, 2.73 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 0.1 fWAR
- Like Coffey, Elbert got off to a rocky start but has been lights-out since early May. Id like to see another lefty acquired so Elbert can be utilized better. Grade: B+

Javy Guerra
2-3, 3.12 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 8 saves, 0.6 fWAR
- Guerra began as the team's closer and was great in the first couple weeks. Ineffectiveness and an injury ultimately led to him losing the closer's role.He just returned from injury and should be a cog in the bullpen for the rest of the season. Grade: B-

Kenley Jansen
4-2, 2.06 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 14.4 K/9, 15 saves, 1.1 fWAR
- Jansen's 2012 is eerily similar to his 2011 season. He started off slow and has been dominant ever since. He's given up more home runs this season (four) than he did last season (three), so that's a concern. Other than that, his H/9, BB/9 and K/BB are all lower than last season, which is great to see. He probably should have been an All-Star selection. Grade: A

Josh Lindblom
2-2, 3.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, -0.7 fWAR
- Lindblom has worked the most innings out of the Dodger bullpen in the first half (41) and is tied with Jansen for the most appearances (39). Aside from a couple hiccups last month, he's been great. Overuse is a concern, but he has the frame to handle a heavy workload. Grade: B+

Jamey Wright
3-2, 3.79 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 0.2 fWAR
- It's a wonder how Wright does it, but he's been somewhat effective as the long-man out of the Dodgers' bullpen this season. Let's face it: anything good Wright does is a positive. He was a non-roster invitee and had to earn his way onto the team. He's been better than expected, especially when expectations are extremely low. Grade: B-

Todd Coffey, Grade: C+
Matt Guerrier, Grade: C-
Shawn Tolleson, Grade: D
Mike MacDougal, Grade: F

Jerry Hairston, Grade: B
Ivan DeJesus, Grade: B-
Tony Gwynn, Grade: C
Elian Herrera, Grade: C
Matt Treanor, Grade: C-
Adam Kennedy, Grade: D+
Juan Rivera, Grade: D+
Justin Sellers, Grade: D+
Scott Van Slyke, Grade: D
Alex Castellanos, Grade: INC
Luis Cruz, Grade: INC
Jerry Sands, Grade: INC

Photo credits
Kemp: EephusBlue, Paint the Corners
Kershaw: SD Dirk, Flickr

1 comment:

  1. Good grades, Dustin. Any disagreement I might have would only be a couple of pluses or minuses. Bottom line: the Dodgers have played above their talent level, and need substantial help to win the division.