The Dodgers’ Lack of Balance and Depth Has Been Their Downfall
The Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s highest payroll, its best pitcher, its best prospects on both sides of the ball, and (arguably) its brightest front office star running the whole show. On paper, they should be the class of the MLB, competing for the best record in baseball en route to an awesome Clayton Kershaw– Jake Arrieta matchup in game 1 of the NLCS.
Instead, they are 23-23, 4.5 games behind the Giants for the lead in the NL West and losers of 6 of their last 10. With his dominance last night, Clayton Kershaw lowered his season ERA to 1.48 and lengthened his stretch of posting a sub-2 ERA to a staggering 1115 innings. If he doesn’t provide the team with a guaranteed win every 5th day, he comes closer than any body else in the game today. But past Kershaw, this is not a very good team.
In fact, without Clayton Kershaw, fangraphs says the Dodgers would be 3.8 wins worse, a below .500 team and one that might trail Colorado and Arizona in the NL West right now. I think it’s reasonable to say that so far this season, the difference between a 4th place Dodgers team and a 2nd place Dodgers team is Kershaw.
The Dodgers’ pitching staff is 3rd in all of baseball with a 7.3 WAR, but Kershaw accounts for 3.8 of that (for the non-mathematically inclined, that’s a full 50%). Without him, the Dodgers would fall to between 16th and 18th, right around where the Indians, Royals, and Marlins are.
Coincidentally, 16th is right where the Dodgers’ offense ranks in WAR with just 5.7. Of those wins, rookie Corey Seager, baseball’s number 1 prospect coming into the season, leads the team with 1.6. He’s followed by ancient second basemen Chase Utley with 1.3 and Joc Pederson, who strikes out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances, with 1.
Notably missing from those top 3 are Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. Gonzalez, is striking out at a higher rate than at any point in his career, save for a cup of coffee he had with Texas more than a decade ago, and is a 0.1 WAR player, posting just a 105 wRC+, making him a below average first baseman. Puig’s streakiness this season has been well documented and he’s looking more and more like a super-talented flash in the pan than a real All-Star caliber player, which is a serious problem for LA because, despite their payroll flexibility, this is team built around just a couple stars and seriously lacking any real depth.