Mar 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) throws to the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of their spring training baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
If you read this mornings Morning Commute you would have noticed, near the end of the article, mention of Ken Rosenthal saying that the Los Angeles Dodgers maybe “Unbeatable” and are going to “Run Away With The West”
"Every year fans and media try to come up with “surprise” teams, and sure, one or more is possible in the NL West. But the Dodgers project to 98 wins according to Baseball Prospectus and 91 according to Fangraphs. No other major league club in either model projects to even 90. The Giants, pegged by both as the second-place team in the NL West, are at 87 according to Prospectus and 85 according to Fangraphs."
There we have it folks, it’s been a fun couple of weeks of San Francisco Giants baseball. Congratulations to the 2014 National League West Champion Dodgers. Now to be serious here for a minute. There’s a good thing about this beautiful game of baseball, as I know and was tweeted to me this morning
Every year there is a team, or teams, that are considered heavy favorites for the division, league and World Series titles. If last off-season taught us anything, it would be that teams don’t win in November to February. Going into the 2013 season the favorites for the World Series were the Washington Nationals and Toronto Bluejays, both missed the playoffs with the Bluejays finishing last in the American League East.
Back to the “unbeatable” Dodgers and the Giants, the team projected to finish in second in the NL West, 11 games back of the West Division winning Dodgers, same margin of divisional as in 2013 over the Arizona Diamondbacks
As you see above, the Dodgers won the 2013 NL West Title by 11, thanks in large part 42-8 stretch in June and July. They are poised to win the division again this season, that’s not my “argument” here. I do think that the Dodgers will win the division in 2014, but not by the 11 projected games. I also think that they are very “beatable”.
The Dodgers projected starting rotation is this
That is a very good starting 5, with Josh Beckett as possibility for the fifth spot. Chad Billingsley due to come back sometime in May or June. That is some pretty nice depth, as we know that no team goes an entire season with the same starting 5.
The offense is a good one, and could probably compete in the American League.
C. A.J. Ellis
1B. Adrian Gonzalez
2B. Dee Gordon
SS. Hanley Ramirez
3B. Juan Uribe
LF. Carl Crawford
CF. Matt Kemp
RF. Yasiel Puig
There are a couple of question marks on the offense. First off, is Gordon the answer at second base? Is Kemp healthy? and finally, can Puig duplicate his outstanding rookie season?
Now to the Giants.
Their starting rotation is
That is the same rotation, save for the addition of Hudson, that carried the Giants to the 2012 World Series title. In case of an injury to one of the starters, they have Yusmerio Petit, David Huff and rookie Edwin Escobar as back up. Nowhere near the depth of the Dodgers. The Giants rotation does have its fair share of question marks. Will Cain, Lincecum and Vogelson all have bounce back seasons? Has Bumgarner established himself as a true “ace”? and how healthy is Hudson after that freak injury cost him almost half of the 2013 season?
The offense is as follows
This is the same offense, save for the addition of Morse, that won the 2012 World Series. In 2013, the Giants ranked near the bottom of most offensive categories, mostly due to lack of production from the left field spot and a major injure to Pagan. With the addition of Morse and a healthy Pagan, I would expect a much better offensive season from the team as a hole. Sandoval has lost some much-needed weight and is in a contract year, and I would expect him to have a breakout season as he looks to cash in during the off-season. Belt finished off the 2013 with a solid second half and some are predicting that he continues that hot stretch with a solid/career year. The biggest questions with this offense would have to be: Is Pagan fully recovered from his leg injury that cost him so many games in 2013? Can Morse stay healthy for a full season? Are the back troubles that have kept Scutaro out of most baseball activities during the spring, going to linger into and all season? One thing that anyone who has paid any attention to baseball over the last few years should know is, the Giants love being the underdog. Also cannot forget that the Giants did win the season series last season 11-8 vs these Dodgers.
So in conclusion: Do I think that the Dodgers will win the NL West in 2014? Yes, if I had to predict a division winner, it would be them. Do I think that they are unbeatable? Well, after comparing rotations and each teams offense,I would say that they are very beatable. The season is only a couple of weeks away from beginning and we will know in 6+ months how this will unfold. I expect this division, like most other divisions, to be a very fun and competitive division.