Everyone assumed the Los Angeles Dodgers would coast right through the 2014 season, the princes of the NL West, and assume their rightful place among the post season elite in October. With All-Stars at nearly every position and more money spent than any other team in the game, it was a foregone conclusion that the Dodgers would run rampant all over the National League.
It hasn't happened yet. The Dodgers are a mediocre 31-30, 8.5 games back of the overachieving San Francisco Giants. So what's up?
Last season the Dodgers were muddling along well under .500, until calling up Yasiel Puig. The burly outfielder took the team upon his burly shoulders and brought the team roaring back to a 92 win season and an NL West crown. Puig has been even more Puigian this season, putting up a mammoth 1.043 OPS, but his heroics haven't been enough.
Dee Gordon, the early season phenom, seems to remember that he is Dee Gordon. When the Rockies faced the Dodgers in April, Gordon had nearly a .900 OPS and more steals than any other player in the game. He still has the most steals, but his OPS has dumped down to .689.
Juan Uribe, who has had a late career renaissance, is on the shelf with a busted leg. Uribe, who plays a great third base and swings out of his shoes, is still tied for third on the team in WAR, despite having about 80 fewer plate appearances than the team leaders.
Justin Turner has filled in for Uribe, and actually done a fine job with a 104 wRC+. I can think of a certain team that could use someone like that to replace an injured star third baseman...
Hanley Ramirez has a 128 wRC+, which is obviously excellent for a short stop, but it isn't what we are used to seeing from Hanley. He's the guy who is supposed to challenge Tulo for best short stop in the game, and he has not stepped up yet. He probably shouldn't even be playing short, as his UZR is well below average. He complemented Puig last year in going absolutely psychotic in the second half, so his struggles are part of the reason the Dodgers are playing so ordinarily.
Matt Kemp has -0.7 WAR. Haha.
The Dodgers still have too many outfielders and too few good catchers. Kemp, Puig, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, and Joc Pederson (still in AAA) all have claims to be starting outfielders. Alas, space is limited. As far as catchers go, AJ Ellis, Drew Butera, and Tim Federowicz have all been pretty awful, though Ellis was hurt. He has a track record of pretty solid play.
Starting pitching hasn't been a problem for Los Angeles, that's for sure. Clayton Kershaw has been Clayton Kershaw (after missing a month with back problems), Hyun Jin Ryu is fantastic, Zack Greinke is fantastic, Dan Haren has been serviceable, and Josh Beckett, relying on his curveball more and more, is having a huge year (including a no hitter). Any one of those guys is capable of shutting a team down.
At the end of the day it feels like the Dodgers have more guys underperforming than overperforming. I'd be very surprised if they don't go on a big run at some point; let's just hope it doesn't start here. Not that it matters, because the Giants don't lose baseball games anymore.
Pitching matchups and TV info
Game 1: Friday, June 6 at 6:40 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Hyun-jin Ryu vs. Eddie Butler
Game 2: Saturday, June 7 at 2:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Zack Greinke vs. Jhoulys Chacin
Game 3: Sunday, June 8 at 2:10 p.m. MT (ROOT Sports)
Clayton Kershaw vs. Jorge De La Rosa