In order to win in October, teams need to have great pitching. It’s the tireless phrase we have heard time and time again by baseball analysts who always acknowledge the value of having dominant starters and a reliable bullpen. This may be the most overused line when it comes to playoff baseball, but it is very true.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are in a position to go on a deep playoff run that could see them play in their first World Series since 1988. We know the Dodgers have enough offense to help them secure a National League pennant with a star-studded lineup that seems to be peaking at the right time and producing more games in double digits.
The big concern for the boys in blue is can their pitching get them past their National League foes and into the World Series? It has been a roller coaster year for the Dodgers’ pitchers with inconsistencies in both the back end of the rotation and the bullpen.
In order for LA to play in the Fall Classic, they know they will have to rely on their starting pitching which features their version of a Big Three.
Ace Clayton Kershaw is having a memorable season boasting a 20-3 record, a 1.80 ERA, and will be the likely winner of his third Cy Young Award and a finalist for NL MVP. Right-hander Zack Greinke is having another terrific year in his second season with the Dodgers with a 16-8 record, a 2.74 ERA, and a 1.15 WHIP. South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu has had a great sophomore campaign with a 14-7 record and a 3.38 ERA and is trying to come back from a shoulder injury in his throwing arm.
Veteran righty Dan Haren has emerged as the fourth starter for the Dodgers despite an up-and-down season. The 34-year-old currently has a 13-11 record and started off the season very well for LA in April and May before struggling in July and early August. However, he has bounced back and given the team more productive starts in the last two months. Haren has put them in a position to win when he is on the mound which is all you ask of a fourth starter.
The success of LA may hinge on their bullpen which has been shaky throughout the regular season. The main issue for the Dodgers is the consistency of their middle relievers and setup men who have struggled at times to get the ball to closer Kenley Jansen.
Jansen has been the best reliever for LA this year and has been dominant at times compiling 43 saves in 48 opportunities and a 2.84 ERA. However, finding stability in the setup role has been an on-going battle for Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
Brian Wilson came into the season as the set-up man for the Dodgers after a re-establishing himself last year, but has struggled with a 4.82 ERA and 29 walks in 58 games. Brandon League has pitched better this season than he did in 2013 but he has still had rough outings where he puts himself into difficult jams.
Pedro Baez has been a nice surprise since being called up from the minor leagues and has gradually increased his role within the bullpen. However, Baez is still young and has not developed a secondary pitch to go along with his explosive 99 MPH fastball. Also, it could be too much to ask of him to get critical outs in an intense playoff atmosphere.
Left-handers JP Howell and Paco Rodriguez are the likely candidates to take the ball in the later innings for the team. Next to Jansen, Howell has been by far the most consistent reliever for LA with a 2.23 ERA and an opposing batting average of .181. He is capable of getting both left-handed and right-handed batters out because of his changeup.
Rodriguez has only appeared in 17 games this year spending most of the season in Triple-A and has recently dealt with a strained back muscle. However, he is showing that same steadiness he displayed in 2013 and the Dodgers could certainly use another situational lefty in their bullpen for the postseason run.
The Big Three of Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu will be tough to beat in any series, short or long. They could mask some of the issues in the bullpen by going deep into ball games. However, Mattingly knows in order to win, a team needs reliable relievers. At times, the Dodgers’ pen has been good; however, they have also struggled to maintain a strong level of efficiency and quality production.
The Dodgers may have enough pitching to reach the World Series, but will need this bullpen to step up and harness some of that October magic.
(Photo by-Alex Gallardo/AP)
The past two seasons have been very unstable for Los Angeles Dodgers superstar outfielder Matt Kemp. Kemp battled several injuries including shoulder, hamstring, and an ankle that resulted in surgeries.
After battling through rehab assignments, simulation activities, there was a point for many fans if we’ll see the Matt Kemp of 2011 again. After overcoming an off season of many trade rumors seeing Kemp out of Los Angeles, the Dodgers made it clear that they have confidence that Kemp could still perform at a high level when healthy.
Kemp skipped the trip to Australia, stayed stateside in Arizona at Camelback Ranch to continue to rehab and work on his game. The ever ready star made it clear he was an everyday outfielder, despite the plans that manager Don Mattingly may have had dealing with a four man outfield.
Kemp reminded everyone that BeastMode is alive and well on Sunday in the 6-2 victory over the rival San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.
“That’s when I know I’m seeing the ball good, when I drive the ball to right field like that,” Kemp told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “That’s my swing right there.”
In the second inning Kemp connected on home run over the wall in left field. Later in the fourth inning, Kemp crushed a fastball off of Matt Cain, for a tow run homer over the right field wall.
Kemp was back, and he let everyone know it in a big way.
He struck the ball with confidence in batting practice during spring and before games in the regular season.
“We’ve got a long road ahead of us,” Kemp said. “But I hope the beast is back.“
Kemp showed no effects from his off season surgery, and before Sunday’s game, hadn’t homered at Dodger Stadium since September 2012.
Kemp had surgery on his left shoulder last season from running into a wall at Coors Field in Colorado, chasing down a ball. He returned for the 2013 season, only playing in 73 games due to hamstring and ankle issues.
Now Kemp is focused on the 2014 season, and plans to go healthy all season, helping the Dodgers win a World Series Titles, and as many games along the way.
“I just feel great,” Kemp said. “Let’s just talk about this win and go on to the next thing.”
If Kemp can bring this offensive stability every game, along with Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig swinging the bat every night, the Dodgers could have one of the most powerful line ups in baseball.
Zack Greinke picked up the victory over the Giants also shared his thoughts on the importance of Kemp in the line up. “I’ve never seen Matt being the player he is,” Greinke said. “And Hanley is on a different level. If he’s like he was today, you don’t want to face this lineup if that’s the case.”
Once Clayton Kershaw and Brian Wilson return healthy that will also bring some strong depth into the bullpen for the Dodgers.
Kemp is truly an everyday outfielder, it would be incredibly incumbent of Mattingly to see to it that Kemp gets as much playing time as possible. It’s great seeing Kemp back in the line up, his presence was truly missed the past two seasons.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and outfielder Yasiel Puig continue to build their relationship with one another, after some controversial comments were made by Mattingly during the Australia trip.
Puig went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in Sunday’s 7-5 win against the Diamondbacks. After a ninth inning strike out, Puig left the game and headed to the locker room.
Mattingly told reporters after the Dodgers victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, about Puig’s status with the team.
“I guess his back. Shoulder yesterday, back today, so I’m not sure if they’re going to get him tests or get him to the MRI Monday or a bone scan on Tuesday, maybe. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do. We may not do anything.”
Of course cooler heads prevailed and after a conversation with Puig, Mattingly said “We’re good. I’ve got no issues with Yasiel.” Both met with each other on Tuesday to iron everything out
Mattingly went on to say, “I know Yasiel is a huge lightning rod, and anything I say is a huge story and anything he does is a huge story. Maybe I should have been more clear — the before and after were two different things.“
After returning to Los Angeles, Puig received an MRI on his lower back that showed no damage, however did receive treatment. He’s expected to be ready and playing in the season opener against the San Diego Padres on March 30th.
Puig is still learning the system, but is a huge talent that will continue to improve over time.
Dodgers starter Hyun Jin Ryu could miss his next start against the Padres due to a torn toenail that he suffered in Australia. Ryu make a sudden and quick stop at third base against the Diamondback, where the injury occurred.
Mattingly said that they will make an official ruling on Ryu’s status closer to his start day.
The season will start just a bit early this year for the Los Angeles Dodgers thanks to Major League Baseball going global. MLB decided to expand the brand and use the Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks to promote the sport in Australia.
The two rival teams will play at Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22-23. The two teams have built a huge rivalry in the last two years, which will make for great competition amongst their Australian fans.
Clayton Kershaw gets the start in the first game, while Hyun Jin Ryu gets the start in the second game. Ryu replaces Zack Greinke who left a Spring Training game last week with a strained right calf. Greinke who was never fully in support of the trip Down Under, and will not travel with the team.
Greinke is scheduled to begin bullpen throwing sessions this week at Camelback Ranch.
The Dodgers are scheduled to depart for Australia next Sunday.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has continued to progress in rehabbing from his off season ankle surgery, that has kept him out of his action this Spring.
After positive test results that enable him to progress in more workouts that include tracking down fly balls and running on the field, manager Don Mattingly feels strongly that Kemp will return sooner. “I don’t put that kind of timetable on it,” Mattingly told MLB.com. “As long as he’s moving forward.“
Kemp continues to eye his return this season, although he will not be available for the Australia trip on March 22-23 against Arizona.
“I’m out there running again, I am happy. I’m good,” Matt Kemp said regarding his progress. He could make a return during the first week of the season at Dodger Stadium.
“He’s swinging the bat good. It won’t be long before he’s in a game,” said Mattingly.
The important factor is to get Kemp healthy and last throughout the season, unlike his previous two seasons where he played a total of 179 games.
*(Photo By: Jon SooHoo)
The 22 year old Zach Lee makes his Catcus League start on Friday afternoon for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are extremely excited to watch Lee pitch, as he was invited to Spring Training by the Dodgers this year. Lee has all of the tools to pitch in MLB, however must continue to fine tune his pitches. He overcame an injury to his lat muscle, which enabled him to miss his first scheduled bullpen session.
The Dodgers will be observant of his pitch count, and as Lee continues to develop. He could see some action in the very near future at the next level for the Dodgers, but now the team is focused on their other starters in Paul Maholm and Josh Beckett.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke left yesterday’s game after four pitches, due to a mild calf strain in his right leg.
Greinke struck out Tony Campana, and threw a few pitches to Cliff Pennington before Don Mattingly decided to retire Greinke for the afternoon.
Greinke felt some tightness in his calf, “we deal with small stuff all the time, and I think that’s what this is. We’ll see, but that’s my guess,” said Greinke. “I’d still be pitching if this were a regular season game.”
Greinke made sure to let his thoughts be known how he was in favor of his team taking the long trip to Australia.
Since then Greinke has relaxed his stance on the down under issue, sort of.
“If we’re going to be there, I want to pitch,” Greinke said. “My vote if we had to go over there, was not going. But more people wanted to go than not, so now that we are going, I want to be there. I don’t want to not go and have the rest of the team play with me sitting here watching. I also don’t want to go there and not pitch.”
Each day Greinke will go through ice and theraphy related treatment on his calf, until a diagnosis can be reached.
He will be ready to pitch again in time for the regular season.