Hunch bets on whether Dodgers will improve


It should be easy, right? But it’s not.

What needs to be emphasized, in trying to gauge whether the Dodgers will be improved this season, is how unpredictable baseball is. Whether it’s Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp or Josh Lindblom and A.J. Ellis, year-to-year changes among players are volatile. Trends and cynics are made to be broken.

In the chart below, listing the players who’d likely be the Dodger Opening Day roster if the season started today, I’m laying out my hunches on where the Dodgers will be better and where they’ll be worse. The net change, in my view, is a positive – but the positives are a) not particularly dramatic ones and b) perhaps a bit optimistic. (Fool me thrice, James, shame on you, but fool me four times …)

The Dodgers haven’t made any moves this winter to become significantly better. That doesn’t mean they will be worse than they were in 2011, and getting just a little better could be enough to keep them in the thick of the 2012 pennant race into the summer and trade deadline fever. The most negative thing I would say about the 2012 Dodgers is that there’s a lesser chance of a World Series title than of the roof caving in. But hey – I’m not counting either possibility out!

Player +/- Comment
Clayton Kershaw 0 Still young, but asking a lot to expect improvement over award-winning season.
Chad Billingsley + As in 2010, should improve from a disappointing year.
Ted Lilly - 36 years old and trending down for past three seasons.
Aaron Harang - Good environment for him, but can’t see him outpitching 2011 Kuroda.
Chris Capuano - Has never had an ERA lower than Dodgers’ 2011 No. 5 starters, who had 3.81 ERA in 31 starts.
Kenley Jansen + We’ll hold out hope for his excellence to extend over full season.
Javy Guerra 0 Without a dominant strikeout rate, not confident in a big step forward.
Matt Guerrier + Making a hunch bet here that he’ll be more effective after inconsistent NL debut.
Todd Coffey + Could bring stability in place of last year’s Broxton-Kuo-Troncoso-Cormier-Padilla combo.
Mike MacDougal - All things considered, Dodgers probably got a little lucky with him last year.
Scott Elbert + Now that his role is defined, 26-year-old with K ability can take another step forward.
Josh Lindblom + See Elbert. No reason for this guy to be in minors other than roster games.
A.J. Ellis + Despite power shortage, I’ll venture he’s better than Barajas over 100 games.
James Loney + Sheesh – who knows? We’ll bet he has another hot streak without repeating terrible ’11 start.
Mark Ellis + Dodger 2B had .627 OPS last year. Maybe Ellis improves on that with better defense.
Dee Gordon + Will bet on him having growth.
Juan Uribe + Has to be at least a little better this year than last.
Juan Rivera - Could be the No. 3 left fielder by May.
Matt Kemp 0 See Kershaw.
Andre Ethier + At minimum, good chance of him recovering 2010 form.
Matt Treanor 0 Not significantly better than Navarro.
Jerry Hairston 0 Hairston and Kennedy are essentially replacing Blake and Miles.
Adam Kennedy - Guaranteed $800,000 contract makes little more sense to me than Navarro’s deal last year.
Jerry Sands + Not expecting an All-Star, but plenty of chance for him to play signficant role.
Tony Gwynn Jr. 0 At 29, we probably know what we’re going to get.
Total +7
  • http://twitter.com/ChadMoriyama Chad Moriyama

    Love them both but hard to see Kemp and Kershaw not go in the minus category if we are giving bounce back credit to players like Billingsley.

    Same theory of regression to the mean, no?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Can’t argue, but hoping the Superman factor helps :)

  • Anonymous

    Eovaldi doesn’t make your 25 man roster?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I see him starting in the minors.

  • Anonymous

    What about Hawksworth?  Expect him to start on the DL?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Well, the premise was if the season started today. But he would have Lindblom’s spot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713935344 Jason Ungar

    So……….your telling me there IS a chance.

  • Jack Dawkins

    Im thinking a tougher bet is will there be another McCourt lawsuit involving the Dodgers on his way out?

  • Anonymous

    Are you sure that video didn’t hurt Ethier and course is downfall last year? (LOL)

  • Anonymous

    No way is Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Adam Kennedy,, Chris Capuano, better than Carroll, Miles, Blake, Kuroda, plus it will be really difficult for Kemp and Kershaw to repeat their numbers.   All in all this years team is worse than last years team.  Also, last years team was worse than the year before. To say that this years team to be better than last years team is really betting on the come.  It doesn’t look good.

    • Anonymous

      Won’t necessarily disagree, but Blake hardly played and Miles was really actually not all that good. In fact he had one great month and the rest he was horrible, I bet Hairston can top him. 
      No argument on Kuroda. If the Dodgers could have just signed him with either Harang/Capuano as the 5th starter, I think you could make an argument for slight improvement of the team, but alas….

  • Anonymous

    Wow didn’t realize the 2B last year had such a low OPS, I do agree Mark Ellis can hopefully at least equal it with solid defense. Here’s to Kershaw and Kemp at least staying close between the two of them of duplicating last year, we’ll see. All in all looks like the Dodgers have about the same chance as last year. In other words, if everything goes right they have a shot, just the odds are against it I’m sure. If they can stay close, though, hopefully they can pull the trigger and pick someone up to put them more in contention.

    • Anonymous

      Also, Jon I’m high on AJ Ellis as well working that OBP high enough to make him kind of a Mike Scioscia type, a little power here and there, high OBP and solid defense.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Package, as I said above, I’m aware that some of these picks are optimistic, and I’m certainly not promising improvement. On the other hand, the Dodgers had absolutely terrible production last year at 3B, and have room for improvement from the people on the roster today at SS, C, LF and RF. Maybe even 1B. Last year’s team was a bottom of the barrel team for half the season. If I were betting, I’d bet this year’s team is better than last year’s in the first half, and then maybe it makes a bigger move to improve itself in the second.

    I guess the caveat is how much better other teams in the division are.  If you think Arizona, SF, Colorado or SD made themselves a lot better, then yeah, the Dodgers would in turn be more likely to be worse.

    The Dodger starting rotation has the biggest potential for disappointment, I’d say.

    • Anonymous

      I think the Snakes would be a clear favorite, and I pick the Dodgers for second, with the Rocks and Gnats fighting it out for third. But so many unexpected things can happen that I would only feel certain that the Padres will not win the division.

    • Anonymous

      The Dodgers needed another big bat and they didn’t get one.  That will really hurt them as the pitching is worse as you outlined.

  • Anonymous

    I expect Ellis to disappoint and Capuano to drop out of the rotation, although I’ll be happy to be wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Which Ellis?

      • Anonymous

         Ooops.  Mark, I actually expect a solid year from A. J.

    • Anonymous

      In a pitcher friendly park like Dodger Stadium (and most of the NL West), it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to see Capuano have a decent year.  To me, Lilly is the weak link.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    The last time Capuano had an above-average ERA+ (park-adjusted) over at least 162 innings was 2006. Since then, he has a 4.66 ERA (87 ERA+) over 402 innings. Lilly in that same period has a 3.74 ERA (115 ERA+) over 975 innings. Can’t see how Lilly is a weaker link than Capuano. 

  • Anonymous

    Downton Abbey thoughts: Mary’s aunt overhears Carlisle threatening to blackmail Lavinia. We find out what Lavinia’s secret is, but I can’t seem to figure out why Carlisle was threatening her (i.e., what he wanted). Did I miss something?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

       I think you’ll find that revealed later on.

      • Anonymous

        We’re through episode 5 — do you mean later than that?

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          Yeah – I don’t know exactly the episode, but I just recall eventually knowing the answer to this question.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with most of these bets, with the exception of Kemp and probably Kershaw. Those two were so good, Kemp especially, that they could lose 3-4 WAR between them and still both have fantastic seasons.  

  • Anonymous

    I know he was awful last year but I’m going to miss Kuo.  I think the Mariners have picked up a bargain.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    I’m less optimistic than Jon.  I think the rotation will be weaker overall, with any Billingsley bounceback more than netted out by a Kershaw reversion (hopefully small) and downgrades or aging everywhere else.  I refuse to predict anything about the bullpen.  Safe money there is lots of differences from last year, but with a net effect of zero.  On offense, I think Ethier and Sands (if allowed to play) can improve, but Kemp will fall back a bit (he was ridiculous last year).  Loney was at his worst for half of last year, and his best for half, with the season totals looking decidedly Loney-like.  I expect more of the same overall.  AJ will replace power with OBP, for probably zero net effect.  The super-scrubs at 2b and 3b and a full year of Dee Gordon should, I think produce about the same overall numbers as last year.

    So, overall, I see a weaker rotation, no net change anywhere else, and a mediocre team that this time lacks the weird features of a Cy Young winner and shoulda-been MVP.

    For me, the excitment this year will be about watching the under-30s on the field while assessing the changes in the owner’s box and (hopefully) the front office.  My #1 hope is to see the back of Colletti’s toupee.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713935344 Jason Ungar

      Go _Bears we have always had similar views, this assessment is no different.

  • Anonymous

    The amount of players that would have to improve to offset even understandable down years by Kemp and Kershaw is mind-boggling.  Never before has the term “regression to mean” scared me more.  But who knows, maybe new ownership takes pressure off team and they rise to occassion with the wind at their backs. Unless you’re the Houston Astros or Oakland As, the coming season ought to be a time to be an optimist, if simply for the fact that being angry and stressed about the Dodgers two months from the start of the season is a negative and sad way to go through life. So I choose optimism!

  • Greg Yaris

    We have a $90M budget with no cheap stars (Kemp and Kershaw just priced themselves out of that category).  Instead, we’re loaded up with lots of “proven vets” at market rate salaries.  As a general rule, constructing a team like that is a guaranty of mediocrity.  We basically have only a few players worth keeping (Kershaw, Kemp, Gordon, Guerra and Jensen).  The rest are entirely replaceable.  We’ll only get better by (i) bringing up good young players, and/or (ii) overspending in the FA market.  And we’ll have to wait for the next owner to do that.