Through Wednesday’s action in the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers sit atop the division with a record of 9-4, tied with the San Diego Padres, and took a seven-game winning streak to San Francisco for the start of a three-game series between them and the rival Giants. While they lost last night’s game thanks to some help from the umpires and San Francisco third-base coach Roberto Kelly, the Dodgers are still off to one of the better starts in the National League.
Doesn’t sound like a big deal right? This is what the Dodgers are supposed to be doing, especially with a strong lineup, one of the best pitchers in the game in Clayton Kershaw, and a chance to make another deep playoff run into October, right? Well, the Dodgers posted a 15-12 mark last April and their longest winning streak that month was three games. And the year before that, LA posted a 13-13 record in April and suffered a six-game losing streak from April 14 to April 20.
In fact, from 2011 to 2014, the Dodgers compiled an April record of 58-46, and that includes their 9-1 start they got off to in the 2012 season, certainly nothing to write home about for a team that has left Spring Training with such high expectations in recent seasons. And while we all know that nothing can be won by any baseball team in April, these slow starts in recent years could be the difference between a division title, a wild card berth, or no October baseball at all.
The Starting Pitching:
Make no mistake about it, the Dodgers’ ace is Kershaw, but through three starts he hasn’t exactly posted Cy Young Award winning numbers- yet. After last night’s start – a no decision – the Texas native has a 1-1 record with a 4.04 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, and has surrendered 11 earned runs in 24.1 innings pitched. But he’s getting plenty of support from the starters behind him in the rotation.
Zack Greinke, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson have combined to post a 5-0 record in eight starts with 17 earned runs surrendered in 48.2 combined innings pitched through Monday’s action, good for a 3.14 ERA.
Through the first couple of weeks of the season, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been tearing the cover off the ball and fueling the Dodgers offense. In 14 games played he has posted a .434 batting average with five home runs, 14 RBI and 23 hits in 53 at-bats.
Jimmy Rollins has been looking like the Rollins of old that posted strong numbers with the Phillies as he has a home run, seven RBI, and leads the team with three stolen bases through Wednesday’s action. Top prospect Joc Pederson has had a solid start to his season, where he has posted a .293 average with a pair of home runs, six RBI and 12 walks in 53 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, Yasiel Puig is trying to add more maturity to his game while still trying to put up All-Star numbers.
Is There a Weakness?
At this point, the only weak link of the Dodgers, if you will, is their bullpen. Closer Kenley Jansen continues to stay sidelined on the DL with a foot injury, while one of his potential backups, Brandon League, has also been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season with a strained right shoulder.
Joel Peralta has taken on a lion’s share of the closer’s duties in Jansen’s absence and has picked up three saves in 5.1 innings of work, surrendering two hits, a walk and striking out one in the process. Chris Hatcher has also earned a save, while relievers Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez have combined to work 14.1 innings and surrender three earned runs and 10 hits while combining for 21 strikeouts (through Monday).
How long and how much the bullpen will have to hold up in Jansen and League’s absences remains to be seen.
Is it the Park?
And in what might be the biggest surprise among all the contributing factors to the strong start might be Dodger Stadium itself. A park known for low scores and balls that die in the outfield, especially at night, the park has been hitter-friendly through LA’s nine home games this season.
According to MLB.com, through Wednesday, 13 of the Dodgers’ NL-leading 18 home runs have come at Chavez Ravine, and the team also ranks third in the National League with 67 runs scored, 53 of which have come in LA’s nine home games.
How long the offensive numbers will stay up at Dodger Stadium remains to be seen.