After making multiple big additions during the season to bolster their roster, the Dodgers find themselves on the outside looking in of the playoffs. They watched the Giants clinch the National League West with ten games to spare, and watched their wild cards hopes diminish Tuesday night when the Giants slashed their postseason hopes with a 4-3 win.
As expected, Los Angeles’s new ownership group created some noise with a few in-season moves. But it’s safe to say that even the most expensive additions didn’t veer the Dodgers onto the playoff road. In fact, as soon as they began to add new players, they gradually started to crumble.
Ironically, the washed up veterans and mediocre everyday players did a better job than the corps that were presumably brought in to bolster their chances of winning the World Series, let alone making the playoffs which seemed like a lock when they made the big trades.
However, fate turned for the worst when the new acquisitions arrived.
Offensive Woes Since “Big” Trade
If there’s one element to blame for their downfall, it’s the lack of offensive production since making the big trade which landed them Adrian Gonzalez.
Specifically, they’re averaging about 3.5 runs per game since completing the blockbuster deal. In comparison, they were averaging over four runs per game prior to making the deal. And before the deal, their starting lineup wasn’t all that formidable. Of course, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier certainly posed one of the best middle of the order duos in the league.
Yet, outside of Kemp and Ethier, their lineup consisted of players who were in the midst of career years. A.J. Ellis, Luis Cruz, and Jerry Hairston all held down the bottom of the lineup effectively for a large fraction of the season. They were the ones who were surprisingly carrying the load, and quite successfully for that matter. Los Angeles’ depth was paramount to their success because one through eight in the order they had hitters who were thriving.
But as the season progressed, the players such as the three above, stopped producing, which didn’t come as a huge surprise to even to the casual fan. Their track records showed that a collapse was on the horizon, and it was just a matter of time before such a thing occurred. It’d be foolish to say that the Dodgers’ management didn’t see that their washed up veterans weren’t going to continue to lead the charge. But that’s where the blockbuster trade was expected to lift them over the top. They were filling the inconsistent holes with seasoned veterans. From even a general standpoint, it was a massive upgrade.
Offensive issues was essentially the last concern on the Dodgers’ minds considering the fact that their remaining schedule at the time wasn’t very daunting. If anything, their pitching was expected to down-spiral, but not the offense.
The only real challenges on their remaining schedule were the pitching staffs of the Nationals, Reds, and Giants. Simply put, their newly revamped offense was expected to feast on weaker pitching staffs. And living up to the hype, the Nationals and Reds held them to under three runs per game, but that was expected.
What wasn’t expected was the likes of the Rockies and Diamondbacks using their pitching staffs to beat them multiple times, even in their hitter friendly home parks. To be specific, over six straight games against Arizona and Colorado, they didn’t even average 3.5 runs per contest. Then, about a week later, they scored just two runs over two games at the home run happy Chase Field.
It’s safe to assume that they hit a rut at the worst time possible against the most surprising of pitching staffs. Obviously, that didn’t bode well for them in the standings.
Therefore, their master plan failed.
Trades Didn’t Pan Out
The Dodgers’ offense as a whole failed in the late months because their trades didn’t shake out quite like the Dodgers’ management envisioned.
Their biggest addition in Adrian Gonzalez has hit .297/.347/.449 with three home runs and 21 RBIs in 34 games. Yes, his average checks in at that elite .300 range, but he hasn’t hit for much power as the Dodgers had hoped for when they acquired him.
Los Angeles’s other additions haven’t fared well either. Shane Victorino is hitting well below .300 since joining the Dodgers. Despite driving in 44 runs, Hanley Ramirez is hitting south of .300 as well.
And believe it or not, the hated Josh Beckett has statistically been the most productive pickup in the deal. In seven starts, he has posted a 2.93 ERA, despite getting off to a rocky start. The Dodgers’ other main pitcher addition in Brandon League has been solid as well, posting a 2.39 ERA in 27 appearances.
However, good performances from Beckett and League clearly wasn’t enough. Victorino had struggled with the Phillies prior to being traded, Gonzalez’s was and still is in the middle of a power slump, and Ramirez has been inconsistent for the past couple of years.
The pickups were very risky from the get-go. Risky has resulted in them missing the playoffs.
While the negatives are ultimately going to overshadow the positives, don’t get me wrong, there are still some positive things to take from the Dodgers’ 2012 campaign, mainly from the a pitching perspective.
Probably the biggest surprise of all has been Chris Capuano. The Dodgers signed the lefty in anticipation that he could support the back end of their rotation coming off three mediocre years with the Mets and Brewers. He has certainly done that plus more. In fact, he has arguably been their second best pitcher this year behind Clayton Kershaw with a 3.72 ERA and an 12-11 record. Not only has Capuano greatly surpassed original expectations, but he looks to be a key piece in the shaping of their rotation for next year. Talk about a bargain..
Led by Capuano and Kershaw, the Dodgers have posted the best overall pitching ERA in the N.L with a 3.35 mark. Pitching wasn’t necessarily predicted to be their strong suit coming out of spring training, but it has been more than just a strong suit, clearly. Along with their excellent overall ERA, they boast the third best bullpen ERA in the N.L (3.24).
Yes, their pitching was a surprise, but was it a fluke? We’ll have to wait for next year to find that answer.