10 Things We Learned About the Los Angeles Dodgers This Season
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The 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers failed to live up to expectations, but succeeded in painting a very bright picture for the future.
Despite finishing 10 games over .500 at 86-76, the Boys in Blue fell flat in the postseason race for the third consecutive season.
However, through their 2012 roller-coaster campaign, 10 things have certainly become clear moving forward.
Here they are.
1. Money Is No Longer an Issue
New acquisition Adrian Gonzalez putting a ball in play against the Giants.
Harry How/Getty Images
According to Graham MacAree of SBNation.com, since last November, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent approximately $675,000,000.
This number was found by adding the 2012 payroll to the prorated contracts of the players recently acquired or resigned.
Think about how much money that is.
It is roughly half of what Farmers Field—the agreed-upon new NFL stadium planned for downtown Los Angeles—is said to cost at approximately $1.2 billion.
Yet the Dodgers keep on truckin’.
The new ownership made up of Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter, Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten has now repeatedly shown that they are willing to spend whatever it takes to win.
Most recently, Guggenheim Baseball Management spent $25.7 million to win just the bid for negotiating rights to Korean left-handed pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.
Money is clearly no longer an issue in Los Angeles.
2. Don Mattingly Is the Guy
Manager Don Mattingly celebrating as Shane Victorino scores.
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Don Mattingly is a blessing in disguise for the Dodgers.
Ready for a bold statement?
Mattingly could be the Joe Torre of the Dodgers' future.
While some of you might say comparing “Donnie Baseball” to the great Joe Torre right now might be a little far-fetched, listen to this.
The Dodgers head coach spent 28 years of his playing and coaching career with the mighty New York Yankees.
In that time, not only has Mattingly played for Joe Torre, but he has also coached under him as well.
Now with a group of superstars and a high payroll to work with, Mattingly can finally put all that he has learned under Torre into full effect.
As a former superstar himself, he knows how to treat players with respect while understanding what it takes to pull the best out of them.
In just his first season as head coach of the Blue Crew, he managed Clayton Kershaw to an NL Cy Young and Matt Kemp to what should have been an NL MVP award.
Said best by Clayton Kershaw, "He's so positive. All he asks of us is just go out there and play the way we’re supposed to. Do things the right way on the field, and he's happy with you. When it's simple like that, it's easy to play for, and it's fun to play for."
3. Injuries Remain a Huge Issue
Dodgers RHP Chad Billingsley delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
In the 2012 season alone, the Dodgers saw 21 different players hit the disabled list.
The most significant of these injuries came to Matt Kemp, who struggled with hamstring problems early on and Chad Billingsley, who had to end his season early thanks to elbow pain.
The Dodgers' trio of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley accounted for 120 combined days on the DL alone.
That is without the constant day-to-day injuries faced by Kemp throughout the season, including playing through a torn labrum in his shoulder for the last few months.
With Billingsley slow to return from his season-ending elbow injury, concerns with Kenley Jansen following heart surgery and questions about the health of Clayton Kershaw (hip) and Carl Crawford (Tommy John), the Dodgers will begin the 2012 season with numerous health concerns.
4. Starting Pitching Must Be Addressed in Offseason
Free agent RHP Zack Greinke pitching against the Rangers for the Angels in 2012.
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Although the Dodgers finished the 2012 season third in the MLB with a 3.34 team ERA, starting pitching must be addressed in the offseason.
As Billingsley’s abilities could be limited due to injury, the Boys in Blue enter the offseason without a clear No. 2 pitcher behind Kershaw.
The bottom of the rotation raises a lot of questions as well.
Chris Capuano finished the year 3-8 with a 4.76 ERA in the second half, Harang went 4-5 with a 3.76 ERA in that same time period and Ted Lilly is aging and coming off a season in which he made only eight appearances.
The lone bright spot other than Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley following the All-Star break was Josh Beckett, who maintained a 2.93 ERA in seven starts in LA.
To combat the many issues facing the rotation, GM Ned Colletti has made the Dodgers' pitching staff the priority of focus during the offseason.
Adding a starting pitcher is "an area we'll seriously have to look at," Colletti said.
According to MLBtraderumors.com, the Dodgers are currently in the market for free agents such as Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Ryan Dempster.
5. Luis Cruz Earned a Spot in the Lineup
Dodgers INF Luis Cruz celebrates after a big play against the Rockies.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Luis Cruz was the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 Dodgers season.
Cruz finished the season as one of the Dodgers’ more consistent hitters, batting .297/.322/.431 with six home runs and 40 RBI in 78 games played.
According to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, following the season-ending surgery to Jerry Hairston Jr., “[Cruz] went on a ridiculous tear. He hit .347 (43 for 124) over his next 34 games.”
Hence, the most recent rumors that Los Angeles is in the running for third baseman Kevin Youkilis will most likely fall through.
With the numbers he produced in the second half of the season, Cruz should stand atop the depth chart at third base heading into spring training.
6. Kemp/Ethier Won’t Have to Carry the Offense
Dodgers OF Matt Kemp setting up one of his final at-bats in 2012 against the Giants.
Harry How/Getty Images
Over the past few years, the same storyline has headlined the Chavez Ravine.
Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp carry the offense while the rest of the lineup struggles to get on base and drive them home.
This is no longer the case.
Over the 2012 season, the Dodgers acquired Silver Slugger Award winners Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and the 2009 NL Batting Champion Hanley Ramirez.
The newest Dodgers additions have a combined 11 All-Star Game appearances on their careers.
With these trades comes a release of tension off the shoulders of Ethier and Kemp.
The two Dodgers favorites can finally relax, knowing that there are players behind them who can actually knock them in.
If Crawford can come back healthy in 2013, this group has the potential to become the most deadly lineup ever assembled in Dodgers history.
7. The Dodgers Need an Everyday Left Fielder
Dodgers OF Carl Crawford hits the ball in play while playing for Boston on August 12, 2012.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
If everything goes as planned and Carl Crawford arrives at spring training healthy and ready to go, he will most likely take the everyday starting spot in left field.
However, the Dodgers’ recent interest in free agent outfielder Torii Hunter seems to show otherwise.
In 2012, left field served as a soft spot in the Dodgers’ lineup for most of the season.
Once Shane Victorino took over left field in early August, not much changed.
In 53 games played in Dodgers blue, Victorino hit .245/.316/.351 with just 26 runs scored and 15 stolen bases.
Expect the Dodgers to have an impact bat in left field, regardless of whether or not Crawford is ready by opening day.
8. A.J. Ellis Is a Legitimate Starting Catcher
Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis puts a good swing on the ball against the Padres.
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Contrary to popular belief, A.J. Ellis proved that he can be an everyday starting catcher in the MLB during the 2012 season.
After spending nine seasons alternating between the majors and minor leagues, Ellis finally got the opportunity to start this past season and he thrived in the role.
While at catcher, Ellis showed his durability as well as a quick and accurate release.
In 131 games behind the dish, Ellis threw out 36 baserunners—second-best in the MLB.
The catcher out of Austin Peay State also had his share of success from the batter’s box.
Ellis hit .270/.373/.414 in 423 at bats with 13 home runs and 44 runs scored.
In what is probably the most surprising stat of the season, A.J. Ellis also led all Dodgers’ hitters with a 4.1 WAR, second only to Clayton Kershaw among the rest of the team.
What appeared as a weakness heading into the 2012 season is now a Dodgers’ strong suit thanks to the play of A.J. Ellis.
9. The Giants Are the Team to Beat in the NL West
The World Champion San Francisco Giants in their championship parade.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The World Series champion San Francisco Giants are still the team to beat in the NL West.
After finishing the 2012 regular season nine games ahead of the second-place Dodgers, San Francisco had one of the most impressive postseason runs in recent memory.
The Giants survived six elimination games throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs only to sweep the Detroit Tigers for their second championship in just three years.
This season the Giants took 10 out of 18 games against the Dodgers, including five of nine at Dodger Stadium.
With the core of the Giants team returning, they should contend for the World Series once again in 2013.
No matter how much money the Dodgers spend in the offseason, they will still have trouble beating the Giants for the NL West title next year.
10. Vin Still Has It
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Vin Scully is still the best broadcaster in Major League Baseball.
As a matter of fact, he is widely recognized as the best broadcaster in all of sports.
Ever since Vin Scully performed a football broadcast from the roof of Fenway Park on a frigid Boston day without a coat on, he has been a legend among the sports community.
Through storytelling and his passion for the game, Vin Scully has successfully mastered the art of calling baseball games.
Quotes such as his iconic introduction to every broadcast: "Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good (afternoon/evening) to you, wherever you may be," or his wave following the seventh-inning stretch have become a staple among the Dodgers faithful.
As you listen to him speak through the airwaves, you get the sensation that you are sitting there right beside him in the booth, watching the game live.
Yet now at 84 years old, Mr. Scully’s time as the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers is sadly starting to come to an end.
However, he is back for another year and returning in the hopes of announcing his first World Series since 1988.
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