Are the Dodgers in decline?
Craig Minami in the TrueBlueLA comments asked this question.
Is this a team on the rise, a team at the pinnacle or a team that be in some small decline?
I started to answer but realized why I stopped posting lengthy comments at truebluela. By tomorrow, they will be gone, so I thought I’d answer that question here since I’ve got nothing else to write about right now.
You need some context to answer this question. They won 104 games so when you ask are they are a team on the rise, does that mean is this a team that will win more than 104 games in 2018? Odds are certainly against it
Is this a team in decline based on 104 wins in 2017? Sure
But I’m sure Craig didn’t tag the question based on wins. So I’ll answer as though he’s simply asking if the Dodgers are a team that will continue to get better or have they peaked and will now start a gradual decline.
I’m going to answer that based on the assumption the front office does nothing significant this winter except fill the hole left by Brandon Morrow and do their best to get under the luxury tax threshold.
The Dodgers once again won the NL West quite easily and while both the Diamondbacks and Rockies made the postseason, as of right now the gaps between the teams are still significant.
In 2017 the Dodgers didn’t have the best of luck.
Or maybe they did.
They suffered significant injuries to key players expected to be a big part of the team in 2017. Those injuries, however, opened the door for two of the biggest reasons why the Dodgers were a powerhouse in 2017.
They lost their starting 1st baseman for most of the season. You could also argue that the best thing that happened to the Dodgers in 2017 was Adrian Gonzalez getting hurt.
They lost their starting LF Andrew Toles for the season. Much like the Adrian Gonzalez situation, you could argue that Toles getting hurt was the best thing that could have happened to the Dodgers.
They lost Andre Ethier for the season. Much like the Adrian Gonzalez/ Andrew Toles situation, you could argue that Andre getting hurt was the best thing that could have happened to the Dodgers.
It took all three of those players getting hurt for Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor to become full-time Dodgers.
Their starting second baseman hurt his toe early in the year and he never seemed to be the bat they expected until October came around. Logan Forsythe may not be a star but over a full year, he should be able to crush his 2017 numbers. Unless he simply is going to suck in the NL. As of right now, Logan has had four subpar seasons in the National League, one subpar season in the American League, and two great seasons in the American League. Logan didn’t become any good until he was given more than 300 plate appearances in a season. Until last year. I’ll chalk that upto his injury and expect him to contribute much more in 2018.
Their starting catcher lost his on-base skills while continuing to wave at the multitude of passed balls.
They lost the best pitcher in baseball for two months. Again.
They got only five starts from Julio Urias who was expected to be one of the best young starting pitchers in the game in 2017.
They got only sixteen starts from Brandon McCarthy.
They got zero starts from Scott Kazmir
They lost their best left-handed relief pitcher from 2016 to injury in Grant Dayton.
All in all, a lot of things did not go right for the Dodgers and they still managed to win 104 games and win the NL West quite easily.
To answer Craig’s question. I feel this team is still ascending headed into 2018 and will continue to compete in the postseason with the other super teams in the National League.
The starting lineup is now quite young now that Adrian Gonzalez is in limbo, and Andre has taken his injury skills elsewhere.
Young and cheap.
Bellinger (22), Seager (24), Taylor (27), Puig (27), Joc (26) or Toles(26) or Hernandez (26), Barnes (28). Leaving only Justin Turner (33) and Forsythe (31) as players over 30. Turner continues to get better even as he ages into 33.
As young as the team is, they have plenty of experience.
Even if Grandal reclaims his starting catcher gig, he would only be 29.
When you have two of the best players in the game 24 years or younger, you are ascending.
When you still have the best pitcher in baseball, you are ascending
When you have the best closer in baseball, you are ascending
When you have the best pitching prospect in baseball, you are ascending
When you have the best red-bearded player in baseball, you are ascending
When you have the most exciting Cuban right fielder in baseball, you are ascending.
When you have graduated three straight starting position players including two ROY and still have a top five farm system, you are ascending.
When you trade a player no longer in baseball for a starting CF who is under team control until 2022 you are ascending
When you trade a mega dollar Cuban bust who is already out of baseball for an all-star starting pitcher who is under team control until 2020 you are ascending.
If problems emerge, they still have the farm to fix any leaks.
Things happen in baseball, but because of the moves last winter, the brilliant trades for Taylor, Wood, the drafts, the money coming off the books this year and next, I would find it hard to say this team is in any decline phase, now or in the near future. Is a World Championship in their future?
Oh wait, you probably wanted a bunch of actual analysis as to why the team is going to continue to be the best team in baseball. Hell, go read Fangraphs if you want that, I specialize in whimsy.
This is great stuff, Phil. Sometimes, I get the overall sense at TBLA that we’ll be lucky to finish 3rd in the NL West (not from any one person or comment, just a lot of the sense that “we HAVE to do SOMETHING” to get better). If some of the crap that happened to the team last year doesn’t happen next year, we’re already better.
It is natural to want improvements when you see teams all around you improving but we have to keep in mind, they are trying to get where the Dodgers already are. If the Dodgers are really going to try to get under the luxury tax that is going to freak some fans out who have gotten used to the Dodgers spending ways.
I took Craig’s post with two grains of salt.
I felt he might be suffering from double hangover of sorts.
1. In the process of overcoming jet lag from his recent tour in Europe.
2. World Series hangover.
As you point out, the Dodgers are in a very good place regarding personnel, especially with position players. Really, the best place the team has been in since the new ownership group took control.
Will a or some players regress? Maybe.
Will a or some player perform better? Maybe
Will everything stay the same? No