The Dodgers 2013 Season Review/Report Card

Last night, the Dodgers’ 2013 season came crashing to and end as Superman’s cape caught fire. Clayton Kershaw could not complete five innings and was tagged with seven earned runs in the loss, while counterpart Michael Wacha was dominant for Saint Louis. It’s easy to be disappointed, but a spot in the NLCS is nothing to shake a stick at. For the most part, considering all of the injuries this team sustained, they did reasonably well. The list of players who missed significant time includes Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Andre Ethier. That’s a few hundred million in salary worth of bandaids right there. Let’s take a look at the highs and lows:

Team MVP: Adrian Gonzalez. A Gon is no longer an elite defensive first baseman. In fact, these days, he’s probably among the worst defenders at the position. But he can still knock in some runs. He led the team with 100 ribbies and slugged 22 home runs to lead the team. Most importantly though, he was in the line up pretty much every day. At the beginning of the year, while pretty much everyone was either wounded or struggled horribly, Gonzalez held the fort down and produced. One of the often overlooked things about him is that you can’t really play matchups with him, as he hits lefties just about as well as he does righties. His power may not be what it once was, but he still figures to be productive for seasons to come. Grade: B+

Team Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw. Gee, that one was tough to call, wasn’t it… If not for pathetic run support, especially early on in the year, Kershaw could have won 25 games. His sub 2.00 era for the year led the majors by quite a margin, and he is unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball. Whatever contract extension he eventually signs this off season could be worth upwards of 200 million dollars. And if you judge him by his peers, he’s worth every penny. Grade: A+

Unsung Hero: Juan Uribe. Uribe was an afterthought as the season started. Still on the roster by virtue of his popularity in the clubhouse (and possibly the 8 million guaranteed he was earning) he had this one chance to save his career. Yeah, and that’s pretty much what he did. Taking over at third base for the ineffective, and eventually released Luis Cruz, Uribe played exceptional defense and contributed solidly at the plate with 12 home runs while hitting .278. Those numbers may appear solid if unremarkable, but considering he was below the Mendoza line in 2012 and barely above it in 2011, it was borderline miraculous. If the decision making process was objective, Uribe would win a gold glove. The award will probably go to a bigger name like Ryan Zimmermann or David Wright, superior hitters but not the defenders they once were, but anyone who watched the Dodgers this year knows who really deserves it. Grade: A-

Rookie of the Year: Hyun Jin Ryu. This one was a bit tougher to call, as Yasiel Puig’s emergence undoubtedly turned the season around for the Blue Crew. But while Puig faltered down the stretch, making more and more boneheaded decisions in the field, and striking out with shocking regularity at the plate, Ryu remained steady and effective. He won 14 games, and if not for an irrelevant tune up start at the end of the season in which he gave up 4 earned runs while just getting some work in, he’d have finished with a sub 3.00 era also. And in the biggest game of the season to that point, he out-dueled the brilliant Adam Wainwright in game 3 of the NLCS with seven dominant shut out innings. Grade: A

Biggest Disappointment: Matt Kemp. When you have the tools to be a perennial MVP candidate, much is expected of you. After a monstrous 2011 campaign, Kemp had a rough go of it in 2012, struggling at the plate and in the field while dealing with a myriad of nagging injuries, and one that required a shoulder operation. Early this year, it clearly wasn’t 100% right, despite Kemp’s repeated arguments that it was. Well, if you say it’s right, then we expect performance as if it’s right. And he didn’t perform that way. And to tie a brutal knot on the season for him, he injured his ankle on a play at the plate due to lack of hustle. That’s criminal. Grade: D

Offense: Again, injuries played a part, but with their line up top to bottom, you would have expected that this team scored more runs. Gonzalez led the team with only 22, which about the total to be expected from him at this point in the season, but you could argue that this team could field five 30 home run hitters at once, with a couple of them threatening to reach 40. But, it’s hard to hit them when you’re not in the line up. Regardless, this team had to scratch runs together too much, rather than getting heaps at a time with more power production. And with Carl Crawford stealing a measly 15 bags at the top of the lineup, this lineup is was not equipped to manufacture runs. They needed to slug them home with doubles and round trippers. And they didn’t. That said, some guys had nice years and performed better than expected, like the aforementioned Uribe, and the underrated AJ Ellis once again exceeded expectations by hitting 10 home runs. Grade: C+

Pitching: Well, Kershaw was once again awesome. Greinke, even though he just signed a massive contract, probably deserves an extension already. Not only did he pitch brilliantly all year after missing most of the first six weeks, he showed that he’s a tough guy who protects his hitters. The guys standing in the batters box for you night in and night out like it when you do that. We’ve already established the nice year that Ryu had. Kenley Jansen showed he is a top closer, late season acquisition Brian Wilson showed he has plenty left in the tank, and JP Howell was quietly excellent all year as well. Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario faltered late after pitching well for the most part, and Josh Beckett was a disappointment but injuries probably exacerbated that. All things considered, 2014 looks bright for this group. Grade: A-

Defense: This wasn’t expected to be a strength for this team so the fact that it wasn’t is not a surprise. AJ Ellis was elite at throwing runners out, though he still allows too many passed balls. Uribe was probably the best defensive third baseman in the majors this year, but everywhere else was between mediocre and terrible. Hanley Ramirez, considered a poor defender, was probably better than poor. Andre Ethier, who filled in for the injured Kemp in center, played hard, if not that well. Nobody else, even the highly regarded Mark Ellis, did anything noteworthy. Grade: C

Coaching: Yes, the part we’ve all been waiting for. Don Mattingly, despite taking the team to the NLCS, proved incapable of making a good decision. Look, sometimes you can make the right decision and things go wrong. That’s fine, and should not be held against the manager. But things like overusing relievers, dodgy substitutions, and an incomprehensible batting order can be. Mattingly did do a decent job with the immature Puig, and finally made the smart move of eliminating Brandon League as closer in favor of the better Jansen, but the bad far outweighs the good. However, Rick Honeycutt continues to show he is one of baseball’s better pitching coaches, and deserves a long term contract extension. Tim Wallach and Davey Lopes both contributed as coaches. Nothing to say, really, on Trey Hillman. As Mattingly’s right hand guy, one of his primary responsibilities is helping the manager avoid dumb decisions. Either he didn’t take that responsibility seriously, or inexplicably agreed with Mattingly. Grade: C (nudged there by the excellent Honeycutt; without him, it’s probably a D-)

Front Office: Ned Colletti has been a popolar target for critics. And you can’t really blame them. Look at the ridiculous Brandon League contract, and a bench that’s loaded with utility infielders. Seriously, who needs five utility infielders!!!??? But, he did get team MVP Gonzalez and Carl Crawford for very little. Same with Hanley. And he got ace 1A Greinke in the off season to round out the staff. Not every decision was good, but he spent the money he was given and this team was good enough to win with better coaching and maybe a little luck. The team may want to take a look at it’s scouting department. They’ve found a few gems (Puig, Rodriguez) in the past couple of years, but the farm system looks pretty barren. Grade: C+

2014 Outlook: Well, most key players will be back. They will still have four starting outfielders for three spots, but given the injuries of the past couple of years, that’s not a bad thing. Mark Ellis, Uribe, and Brian Wilson are free agents, and played key roles. Uribe might be back on a one year deal, and they’ll probably try to resign Wilson, but they will need to figure out second base. Some people are clamoring for Robinson Cano, but do they want to spend the reported 300 million dollars Cano wants? More likely, they try speedster Dee Gordon there, or try to work a deal with the crosstown Halos for Howie Kendrick. A repeat NL West crown is probable, but the team will have to be healthy to compete with a team like the Cardinals, the unquestioned cream of the crop in the National League. 100-62 is my guess.

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