Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dodgers April in review: Not bad despite injuries and underperformers

One month in to the 2014 season, the Dodgers are doing fairly well, but not as good as might have been hoped. Some health/regression things that could very well have gone wrong have not. A few things are even going much better than expected. A 15-12 record is OK, that's a 90-win pace, but it's been against a weaker stretch of the schedule.

The under-performance is explainable by a little bit of bad luck/hits not falling at the right time, and a few guys performing like they do not belong in the major leagues at all.

Let's start with some things going great:
  • Adrian Gonzalez has opposite field power again! Dude is crushing. .300 with 30 HR looks very possible. 
  • Dee Gordon not only doesn't suck, he's been one of the best players in baseball. There's some luck in there, but he is a different player at the plate and in the field this year. He is playing the game on his terms instead of being overwhelmed. A lot of his errors at shortstop came from not setting his feet properly and making a rushed throw. At second base, he makes as many fielding errors, but the extra time for the shorter throw let's him not rush, and he's cut down the throwing errors (to zero, actually). I don't know that his footwork is any better, but he looks like he might be good enough to play second base in the majors if he keeps hitting enough.  His BABIP is about .400, so he's not keeping that up, but what he is doing well is hitting the ball on the ground, and not popping up.  Also, he's 4-for-7 on bunting for hits.
  • Zack Greinke is one of the best pitchers in baseball.  Every time he goes out there, the Dodgers are very likely to win. He's supposed to be really good, but he's been great.

Things that could have been a lot worse:
  • Josh Beckett is healthy and contributing, although he's gotten pretty lucky, with opposing hitters only having a BABIP of .173.
  • Dan Haren is looking very good. The steal of the winter for sure. There were two stories about why his second half was strong last year after the horrid first half. One was homesickness in the first half, the other was leaning on his splitter more.  Well, he's at home, and he's not really throwing the splitter that much (he's actually gone to the curve a bit more). 
  • Matt Kemp is healthy and contributing at the plate. He's striking out too much, but otherwise right back where he was a couple years ago.
  • Hanley Ramirez's 2013 was not a total mirage, although last year's monster home runs have turned into doubles this year.
  • Juan Uribe's 2013 was not a total mirage. He's another one of the best players in the league right now.
  • Yasiel Puig has continued to make counter-adjustments to the book on him, and is hitting in line with last year (once you discount some of the magic/luck from his 2013) while playing great defense (even accounting for the occasional missed cut-off man replayed on SportsCenter 30 times).  
  • Brandon League just could have been a lot worse. He actually looks like mediocre again, which is a huge step up.

Complete disasters:
  • The Dodgers' catchers have a triple slash line of .156/.236/.177 and we head into May with Miguel Olivo
  • Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier have combined for .211 / .263 / .299 
  • Ramirez and Kemp look terrible in the field. Unacceptably terrible. 
  • Clayton Kershaw has been on the DL, replaced by Paul Maholm, who's managed to underperform even the low expectations placed on him. 
  • Brian Wilson is a hot mess
Kershaw is coming back next week. A.J. Ellis hopefully is back soon. Crawford and Ethier cannot possibly have both turned so bad so fast. And if they have, hey Joc Pederson has an 1.167 OPS in AAA. And Scott Van Slyke might even deserve a mention up above for things going great. Come to think of it, a Pederson/Van Slyke platoon might be the best team we could put on the field right now, if any kind of trades were out there for Crawford and Ethier.

Photo credit: File photo

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