The Dodgers have seen their fair share of injuries. Hanley Ramirez sits out with a strained oblique as I write, but the overwhelming majority of the club’s injuries have come from the pitching staff. As such, the rotation continues to develop as pitchers move on and off the DL (or extend their time on the injury list).
Still, only the Orioles have a larger lead in the division than the five games the Dodgers hold over San Francisco. Some of that is due to initial composition of a team with the largest payroll in baseball ($238.8 million, according to ESPN), but a portion of the credit can be given to the front office for moves that didn’t involve big spending.
Earlier this month, Joe wrote a defense of Clayton Kershaw as one of the faces of the game. The Dodgers ace has been one of the best in the game, and since returning from DL in May, he’s been phenomenal. The lefty has a career-low 1.78 ERA to this point in the season. His numbers keep getting better, so the Dodgers can take comfort in the extension of an elite starter who continues to live up to his billing.
Over the past weeks I have been previewing the race for the postseason. On Monday, I covered the NL East, and today I will be previewing the NL West. We will organize our discussion by the current standings.
Los Angeles Dodgers
65-50 | division lead
A year after Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene to help lead the Dodgers’ improbable comeback, LA is in control of the West, sitting 15 games over .500.
On the offensive side of the ball, Puig leads the team with a .316 batting average to go along with 13 home runs and nine triples. Including Puig, the Dodgers have 5 starters (Puig, Gordon, Kemp, Ramirez, and Gonzalez) batting .257 or better. All of this combines to give LA the eigth highest batting average in the majors at .257, as well as a 12th place rank in the majors in runs scored with 472.
Last week during the All-Star break, there were a lot of comparisons between two great players: Derek Jeter and Mike Trout. The main storyline was the retirement of Jeter, the face of baseball for the last twenty years. But the secondary story was understandably intertwined: the emergence of Trout as his replacement.
Personally, I am one of Trout’s biggest fans. Over the last three years, he has probably been one of the best, if not the best, in baseball. However, when considering who the face of baseball is going to be in 2014 and beyond, there’s another player who should get consideration: Clayton Kershaw.
The case for Kershaw by the numbers
The point here is not to take anything away from Mike Trout, but rather to recall how amazing Kershaw has been. The Dodgers ace was called up in 2008 and struggled at times, putting up an ERA of 4.26, but from 2009 to the present, his numbers have been out of this world. In 2009 and 2010, his performance saw drastic improvements as he posted ERAs of 2.79 and 2.91, respectively. During those years, he was a great young pitcher taking the majors by storm, but he had yet to take his place as the best pitcher in baseball.
This week I’m writing a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB, focusing primarily on expectation and payoff, to varying degrees. There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting has been generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
Yesterday’s subject, which you can read here, was rookie slugger Jose Abreu.
Today I turn to the biggest showman of the bunch, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.
Puig took the league by storm last year after seemingly (to the casual fan) coming out of nowhere. In fact, the high level of hype surrounding Puig really only got going once he was in the majors. There wasn’t the same type of anticipation as for fellow countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.
Part of the equation is that Puig was 21 at the time, had not played for the Cuban national team and scouts had seen relatively little of Puig. Thus Puig was far from being considered one of the safest international signings, as Ben Badler of Baseball America reported two years ago. In fact, many scouts were confused by the news. “They must have seen something,” one international director said at the time. As Badler noted at the time, Puig’s scouting report was a mixed bag: