Breaking Down the Dodgers’ Early-Season Struggles

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(Mandatory Credit: Joe Comporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Is this the team we know? Is this the team that lost 11 straight and caused worry in even some of the most devout fans? Is this the team that lost Game 7 of the World Series?

Let’s think about it for a second. This season, the Dodgers are 3-6. Only four players have hit home runs, yet none of them have hit two. One player has been hit by a pitch, and that player is not Chase Utley. Kenley Jansen has a 9.00 ERA over four innings pitched, which is surprising. Clayton Kershaw has a 1.89 ERA over 19.0 innings, which isn’t.

The Dodgers have not provided baseball with the sonic boom that many thought they would, and though we don’t want to be, some of us are worried.

To aid in the disappearance of that worry, I’ve broken down the things that have been causing issues for the Dodgers, from least problematic to most.

1. 1-4 in the Starting Rotation

It’s no surprise that this is number one. The Dodgers first four starters in their rotation, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, and Rich Hill have combined for a 1.63 ERA. If that ERA had one, singular name, he’d probably be headed to the Hall of Fame. Then again, the season just started.

This, however, is what we expected. Kershaw may have a home run problem, but it sure isn’t reflected in his ERA. Wood is out there on the mound proving that last year was no mistake, and he’s ready to get this team to the postseason. Maeda, the super reliever, is here to save the game starting with the first pitch. Hill’s curveball is still a thing of beauty.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is a slightly different story. This season, in 3.2 innings pitched, he’s walked 5 and given up 3 runs. His ERA sits at 7.36. The Dodgers, however, have overcome more than a high ERA. It’s no secret that Rick Honeycutt is great at his job, and helping pitchers find their stride again is just one of the many reasons he is in his 13th year as the Dodgers’ pitching coach.

Who knows the next person to replace Honeycutt could be Rich Hill or Alex Wood, but not for another 10 years or so.

For now, the Dodgers have a rotation that is as sturdy as any other.

2. The Bullpen

There are a thousand baseball quotes out there, but one of my favorites is by the great Satchel Paige who once said “Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.”He’s right. Home plate stays in the same place, but it’s the umpires strike zone that can change. The Dodgers’ bullpen, however, has done a very good job at finding it.

Here’s the thing, though, the Dodgers bullpen, when looking at the ERA stat, is polarizing. Only Pedro Baez has what, I guess you could call, a normal ERA. When a player has an ERA under one, its looked upon as too good to be true, or just not enough of a sample size. When a player has an era over 6, something is probably wrong.

The season has just begun, and these numbers will all even out but of the Dodgers nine relievers, only one has an ERA that ranges between 1.00 and 4.00.

RELIEVERS WITH 0.00 ERA’S: Ross Stripling, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, JT Chargois.

RELIEVERS WITH 8+ ERA’S: Jansen, Wilmer Font, Scott Alexander, Zach Neal*

*Neal has only pitched 1 inning

My point is that the Dodgers bullpen needs to meet in the middle. I would love for those four players I mentioned above to hold on to their 0.00 ERA’s for as long as they can, but this is baseball, and pitchers give up runs.

It’s rare to have a bullpen with ERAs this different. Am I worried about the bullpen? In a word, yes, but LA’s new bullpen coach, Mark Prior, along with Honeycutt will get the pen on the same page, and work on their mechanics. I’m a little worried now, but dobt I will be for much longer.

3. The Offense

Tomorrow marks two weeks since the season began, and the Dodgers have only hit four home runs. Yasiel Puig and Enrique Hernandez lead the team with two doubles each, and Chris Taylor is in sole possession of the Dodgers only triple this season. Hernandez and Corey Seager lead the team with five walks each, while Yasmani Grandal and Taylor lead the team in strikeouts, with ten. Though none of these stats are bad, per se, they also aren’t great.

To say that Justin Turner has been dearly missed would be an understatement.

The Dodgers need to be great, it’s the only way they’ll get back to the World Series.

As a fan, its hard not to feel like the Dodgers are falling behind.

They rank 28th in runs scored, 27th in home runs, and 24th in hits. They’re currently in fourth place in the NL West, somewhere they haven’t been in a long time.

There’s no other way to say it; the Dodgers need to start hitting.

So, is this the team that lost 11 straight games, and lost Game 7? Is this the team that has the potential to win the World Series, but seems destined for fall short?

No, they’re not. The Dodgers are still the team that hit three home runs back-to-back-to-back and caused Joe Davis to let the words “Absolute Madness!!” echo throughout baseball history.

The Dodgers aren’t the team that lost Game 7 of the World Series, they’re the team that won Game 5 of the NLCS.

They, like all elite teams, just need to hit their stride again, and they will.

 

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