The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off their big announcement of the pending $2.15 billion sale, have started the season 6-1. Comments on Twitter have ranged from, "I think this team is for real." to other statements of similar enthusiasm. While it is good for baseball for the Dodgers to be playing so well and while we could put some stock into the "team playing with new outlook after sale" story lines, the season is way too young to be getting so excited. Yes, they have played extremely well over their first seven games. But the Dodgers haven't exactly had challenging competition to this point and it is a very long season.
Four of their first seven games have come against the Padres. The Padres do not have a good offense and are in rebuilding mode. The Pirates are better than they were a couple of seasons ago, but as a team, they aren't there yet. So the Dodgers should have beaten those teams. And the Dodgers soft schedule continues for quite some time. They have three more games against the Padres. Then they get a struggling Brewers for three and then the Astros for three and it isn't until April 23rd until they get some tough competition in the Braves and then the Nationals. The Dodgers do not play the Diamondbacks until mid-May.
The more their schedule for the season is perused, the more there is reason to start building a little Dodger enthusiasm. By some scheduling fate, their schedule just seems soft throughout most of the season. Hmm...maybe this success can continue. Even their inter-league contests look a little soft outside of two series against the Angels.
If you look at the Dodgers as a whole, there are problems. The lineup has holes and will not be an on-base machine. Dee Gordon is an exciting young player. But he is a young player and will struggle at times, especially at the plate. The catching position seems weak with A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor. James Loney is still not the answer at first base. The outfield defense is not good over the long haul with Juan Rivera in left, Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right.
Juan Rivera is off to a great start. Blue Jays fans must be scratching their heads. But reality will settle in sooner or later. He is not a .320 hitter and he is not going to look as good when his poor on-base abilities show up as his batting average goes down. Ditto for Juan Uribe at third, who over the long haul will not provide the kind of offense you want from a third baseman. Mark Ellis is a nice addition at second, but he's not a great offensive player. He is decent. Over the course of a long season, this should be an offensive infield that could suck some life out of the team.
It's not that the Dodgers are not without some star power. Matt Kemp has become one of the best offensive players in the game. And Clayton Kershaw is one of the best young pitchers in baseball and as long as he stays healthy, should be in the Cy Young Award mix for years to come. Chad Billingsley is off to a great start and has always been a solid rotation guy. But after that, it gets a little dicier with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. Sooner or later, the team will need a fifth starter. Who will that be?
The Dodgers' bullpen is strong at the top with Javy Guerra and Kenly Jansen. Those two are terrific. Matt Guerrier is solid. But things get questionable after that.
This Dodgers team has its flaws. They have a weak early schedule that has allowed them to get off to a great start. That soft schedule continues most of the month of April and beyond. If they continue to feed off of that schedule, it is quite possible that they could be the surprise team of the season with wild card aspirations at least. The Diamondbacks still seem the class of the division. The real question is what impact new ownership will have once the deal is consummated. Will they go out at the trade deadline and do some things?
Yes, the Dodgers are off to a flying start. But hold on to that optimism card for just a bit longer. Some real flaws have yet to be exposed and unless they are filled in later deals, the Dodgers will not be without some tough times ahead.