The 2013 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers could not have started with higher expectations from their fans, ownership, and the players themselves. In fact the Dodgers entered the season with the highest payroll in the National League and only trailed the New York Yankees in all of baseball. The over $216 million payroll is littered with All-Star talent but that is not translating into wins. Here we are in the second weekend of May and it appears their season might already be over. The Dodgers are 13-20 and six games out of first place in the National League West.
They have lost Chad Billingsley for the season to Tommy John surgery. Zack Greinke unfathomably challenged a charging Carlos Quentin and managed a broken collarbone for his troubles landing the high priced addition on the DL until mid-June at best. Hanley Ramirez is having hamstring issues that have him sidelined until the end of May with positive thinking. There is also a smattering of a few others like Ted Lilly and Jerry Hairston that are missing time due to injury. Are the Dodgers done? Not completely. There are a few things the Los Angeles franchise can do to turn the 2013 season around but they have to make changes now. Of course a little like will have to follow.
The first thing is fairly obvious and with a manager like Don Mattingly they can straighten it out. What is it? Fix what ails Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Ethier is currently carrying a .243 average which is 45 points below his career average. His slugging percentage is also down. He is slugging .365 which is almost 100 points below his career average of .473. Matt Kemp, while coming back from injury, is slugging over 140 points lower than his career average and is batting 22 points lower than his career norm. For the Dodgers to succeed offensively they need both Ethier and Kemp to play like they are capable of doing.
Secondly they need to find a starting pitcher or two and they need to do it now. After Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.62 ERA in 2013) and import Hyun-Jin Ryu (3-2, 3.71 ERA in 2013) things go sour fast. Josh Beckett is zero for the season with a 5.13 ERA and has pitched deeper than six innings once in seven starts. Chris Capuano has been an unmitigated disaster in 2013 giving up 10 earned runs in 6 innings over two starts. If I was in LA I would consider bringing up Zach Lee. Sure he is pitching in AA right now but he is handling his business. He is 21 and spent a few years in the system. The man has four, ML average-at-worst pitches, with a low 90s fastball with movement. Bring the boy up and send Capuano to the bullpen.
Matt Magill has been thrust into the rotation and his 7ish ERA is not helping but the ERA is a bit deceptive. He had an awful outing on May 4th giving up five earned runs but his other two starts have been respectable giving up five earned runs in 11+ innings pitched. He needs to work on his command but the Dodgers would be foolish to do anything but leave this guy in the rotation. Trying to weather the storm with Magill and bringing up Lee is a way the Dodgers can hope to salvage the season. If all else fails they could go shopping again maybe try to pull Jake Peavy out of Chicago, AJ Burnett from Pittsburgh or even roll the dice on an inning eater like a Joe Blanton in Anaheim.
Fundamentals can be cleaned up as well. This team is fifth from the bottom in total errors (25) and 27th out of 30 in fielding percentage will .980. If the team can’t pitch they need to have some solid gloves and arms behind them. Young players like Dee Gordon at shortstop will make their share of mistakes but will hopefully get better throughout the season. Matt Kemp needs to square things away on defense as well. He has already made four errors this season which is one less than in all of 2011 or 2010 and more errors than he made in 2008 or 2009. As the center fielder he needs to be solid up the middle especially with some fly ball pitchers in this rotation.
The previous three points all lead up to this one. Finally they need to weather the storm. It has proven to be a challenge but if they can stay in striking distance while the Dodgers await the returns of Hanley Ramirez, Ted Lilly, Jerry Hairston, and others by the end of June there is a shot. Get better defensively, get Kemp and Ethier on track, test run a couple of the “arms of the future” today, and get healthy. The boys in blue could still play themselves into a division title or a wildcard berth but it will take a change in thought and reason from Don Mattingly to the bat boy to have a shot to pull this off. The Dodgers must begin now as there is not a lot of time to lose before Arizona and San Francisco leave them behind.