Raise your hand if you’re sick of hearing about the money the Dodgers are spending. Stomp your feet if you’ve had just enough talk of great expectations, about how it’s the World Series or else, and are simply aching to get onto the actual game of baseball already.
Now tell me if you’re going to kick something, lose control of your bodily fluids and otherwise throw a bleeping hissy-fit if you hear one more syllable re chemistry, about how you can’t buy chemistry, and about the inane suggestion that since your guys are making a ton of money logic must hold that they can’t possibly have good chemistry, and therefore in conclusion, maybe Los Angeles should just trot out the 1962 Mets instead, and pay them in 1962 dollars to boot. Or, cleat.
And God help us, that’s the last we’re going to touch on the subject we all stunk at in high school between now and October. That’s October and not September because, yes, of course, it’s the World Series or bust. You’re bloody well right it’s the World Series or bust.
But not to worry because your Los Angeles Dodgers have been well-constructed, and on this glorious day when – say it with me now, pitchers and catchers report – we begin our look at 2013 where all L.A. Spring Training looks should begin, with pitching. Starting pitching.
Clayton Kershaw truly is a Dodger among men. Predicting pitching is at best a challenge and at worst a total shot in the dark, with the vast majority of major league hurlers being up one year and down the next, up one month and down the next. And when it comes to starters, there are only a handful of men you can count on to provide legitimate ace performance from Opening Day to season’s end. Thankfully, Mr. Kershaw is one of those few.
Whether he likes it or not – and by this time he probably likes it – all comparisons to Sandy Koufax are on the table. No-hitters are fine; wonderful, actually, but what’s missing from Kershaw’s resume is big-time success in the Fall Classic. I don’t know about the 15 strikeouts, or about a Series clincher on two days rest, but I believe we’re going to see some form of postseason history from the young man in 2013. Health permitting.
While I wasn’t on board with the Zack Greinke-to-L.A. rumors at the start, now that it’s happened and we’re setting sail on Spring Training, I’m glad he’s here. Much has been made about a starter transitioning from ace-under-pressure to reliable number-two man, and about how that can benefit him, and it’s a good theory. We’re going to see just such a thing with Greinke (and Josh Beckett too, for that matter).
Forget the very old news about his anxiety disorder. As a full-time National Leaguer, with all that comes from an organization that values pitching above all else, and the large NL West ballparks, Greinke will be just fine. Better than fine. Look for something like a 16-10 record, with a 3.25 ERA and 200 Ks in 200 innings.
Much like Greinke, one would think Chad Billingsley would also benefit from going down a peg in the rotation, from the two-spot to the three. But which Chad Billingsley are we to expect this year? Is it the winless 5.52 of last May and the five straight losses and 20 earned runs in 29 innings of June 16 to July 7, or the six consecutive Ws and six earned in 41 2/3 of July 23 through August 19?
Is he the 2.63 May or the 6.48 June of 2011? Or the 6.11 June of the 2.79 July of 2010? And more importantly, is Bills healthy enough to make it to the All-Star break, or even Opening Day? Anyone who tells you he has the answers to those questions, and to the last one in particular, is as full of it as full of it can be.
In hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery for a partially-torn ligament in his right elbow Billingsley had a platelet-rich plasma injection last August, says he’s doing fine, and from all appearances PRP is an amazing feat of sports science. Smartest-guy-in-the-room kind of stuff. But it’s far from a guarantee, and independent of how well he throws today, regardless of the life on his fastball in March, it’s no sure thing he makes a single pitch come April.
Josh Beckett is back in the NL to start a season for the first time since 2005, and should be just fine pitching in the fourth spot. Better than fine. I’m not worried about him one bit.
I’m not exactly worried about Hyun-Jin Ryu either, but I haven’t a clue what the Korean Baseball Organization import will do in the big leagues. I trust the Dodgers generally when it comes to international deals, and it’s great that all it cost them is $62 million (six years for $36 mil and the rest as a posting fee) and no draft pick, as signing Kyle Lohse would have, but expecting anything more than a .500 season and an ERA under 4.00 would seem to be a stretch, if you ask me. But it’s not my money, so I’ll keep an open mind.
In Chris Capuano ($6 million), Aaron Harang ($7 million) and Ted Lilly ($12 million), Los Angeles has a ton of dough invested in surplus starting pitching. And while the trading of one or two of their extras for say, a right-handed bat off the bench or a proven catcher sounds good on paper, so does a five-man rotation throughout the long season.
Between Billingsley’s elbow, Kersh’s hip (which I haven’t mentioned thus far for fear of jinxing) and attrition which occurs normally during a typical year, the Dodgers might just need all three veteran arms. I can’t remember the last time L.A. has carried a long man, but minus three pitching injuries during camp, they probably will in 2013.
Capuano seems like the likeliest choice for a variety of reasons, none the least of which is the value he’d add as an extra lefty in the pen, with Lilly being the least likely. Harang is somewhere in between.
We’ll have our answer soon enough, as Spring Training Camelback Ranch is officially open as of today.
I don’t know how exactly, but we have made it through another offseason. Next up: the pen. And remember, glove conquers all.
Great article Howard! YES, I am sick and tired of hearing all the chemistry crap from up north! Can't wait for the season to start! Do you think that Puig has a chance to be called up and what about Dee Gordon? Ellis is an "old" problem at second so the Shumaker signing was fantastic! Go Blue!!!
newgs Peter, right? And thanks. I have no idea about Puig, but I suppose if he kicks the crap out of the ball in double A we might see him at some point. Maybe. And Dee has to play like he did the second half of 2011. If he plays like he did last year - bad glove, worse bat, crappy stolen base threat - he has no chance. Probably has to hit .350 and play great defense in the spring to make the team. Something that knocks their socks off.
Well, great article as always Howard. I must admit though, I'm a bit concerned with their defense. The heart of a teams defense is up the middle and that seems to be where this team is the weakest. We all know Hanley has issues at SS which will likely surface again this season, but I'm also worried about the Dodgers catching situation and, to a lesser extent, the outfield. The Dodgers will be counting on AJ Ellis to play at least as well as he did last season and hopefully improve on dealing with pitcher mistakes (wild pitches etc) while also hoping that the young Tim Federowicz can give them 20-25 solid outings on AJ's off days. And then there's the outfield. If Kemp returns to his "MVP" form of 2011 at the plate that will more than make up for his deficiencies in CF. However, it could be his issues in the field that lead to his weakened performance at the plate. His importance to the line-up (whether batting third or fourth), cannot be underestimated - especially considering they currently don't have a legit leadoff man. If he continues to not just misplay fly balls, but also run into walls and dive for balls he's misjudged then it's only a matter of time before he's banged up again. Hopefully, that's something he'll be acutely aware of going into the 2013 season, but it's a huge concern because he's got that Eric Davis/Jim Edmonds mentality of "there is no ball I can't track down - wall be damned". If Crawford can return from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow (and a bad wrist that might plague him all season) and play a solid LF while also giving the Dodgers speed at the top of the line-up, well... that would help quite a bit. But, I don't know if we can count on it....
Steve in North Hollywood I'm not worried about defense beyond Hanley, at whatever position he lands. And I still think they're going to trade for a shortstop. Let's not forget Skip Shumaker, who you'll like at second (which he's going to play a lot of) and at third and in the outfield. As for Ellis, yes, he's got to catch the ball, and I'm hopefull he will. He couldn't have made it this far without that skill. They'll bring in another catcher too, though maybe not until the season is well under way.
As for Kemp, you're right, he has to take it down a notch, but I'll bet he knows that. And let's not forget that Gold Glove on the mound every fifth day.
Just wanted to say "Hey" Howard. See you at the Ravine......And Glendale. Can't wait!!!
L A Jonny
Well said, Howard. I guess it's just about time to subscribe once more to MLB TV and get ready for Dodger baseball again (even if MLB WON'T let me watch the Dodger-Giants games again this year, the jerks).
Johnny Dodger They're gonna change those rules eventually. Not in time to help you this year, but maybe next. And by the way, I cleaned out my entire office and no Croix. I looked and it's just not there. Must've lost it in the last move. Sorry.
Yes nice article to start the season. Unfortunately i am going to throw a wrench into it. IMO, Bills will have TJ surgery. How soon? At the end of ST or the beginning of the regular season. FYI, i hope i am wrong but since something like 1 SP has ever been able to avoid it, "Will Chad"?
Dabigjh I'm pretty much with you on Billingsley as well. This idea that they're going to know about him during Spring Training is ridiculous. The elbow could go at any time. But, and it's a big but, Bill Madlock's butt, "any time" could be in 2014. It's possible.
Howard Cole Dabigjh Yeah it is possible he makes it the whole season but slim. Saito was successful with it but then again he is a reliever.
Dabigjh Yeah, Saito is the guy I remember being surprised about too. That's when I took notice of the PRP thing. But you're right, he was a reliever. And really, the PRP made much more sense for him, near the end of his career. Why go through Tommy John in your late 30s when you've only got another year left. Plus, it's not like he's been durable since. Billingsley is just delaying the inevitable, and it seems like he's the only guy who doesn't know it.
Great article, Howard. Upbeat and positive, as we all should be. This is the real beginning of the new Dodger franchise. We have all the talent we need, all in place. I will be thrilled beyond belief to get to the WS, but am practical enough to know that getting past the DCS often involves as much luck as talent. I will not be happy with anything less than a Division Champion, as that is the culmination of 162 games played by a TEAM, with talent showing via consistency. I look for great things this year, and cannot wait to get started. My son, in Seattle, is a Dodger fan all the way, and we are going to be glued to the action (and your articles) all season long.
Best wishes to our team, and to you, Howard.