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Comparing the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers Team to the 1988 World Champions

Jeremy DornAnalyst IIIDecember 24, 2012

Comparing the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers Team to the 1988 World Champions

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    You know what stinks? The last time my favorite team won the World Series was three months before I was even born. Sorry, Giants fans, but THAT is real torture.

    Now, for the first time in my life, I might get to see my beloved Dodgers get back to that Promised Land. It's cliche by now to talk about the 2013 Dodgers being World Series favorites on paper, but it can't be ignored. 

    Anytime someone throws hundreds of millions of dollars away on All-Star talent, it's going to pique some interest among analysts.

    But does this 2013 version of the Dodgers stack up to the 1988 champions?

    Let's break it down, unit by unit.

Lineup

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    One of the reasons the 1988 championship team was such a surprising winner is because they really didn't have a ton of offensive firepower. The Oakland A's were heavily favored to win that series, and rightfully so.

    In 1988, the best hitters on the Dodgers were Steve Sax, Kirk Gibson and Mike Marshall. The three combined for 50 homers, 215 RBI and 77 stolen bases that year. They also boasted some above-average seasons from the likes of John Shelby and Mike Scioscia.

    That being said, the overall team totals were pretty meager. As a team, the Dodgers hit .248 and hit less than 100 homers. Luckily, they knew how to play a little small ball.

    Held up against even average projected numbers for the 2013 team, that 1988 squad falls well short. Even with Matt Kemp missing significant time, and only six weeks from Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers smacked 116 homers and hit for a team average of .252 last season.

    Gonzalez alone averages a line of .294, 29 homers and 103 RBI in most full seasons. Ramirez is good for a .298 average, 24 homers and 80 RBI. And we all know what Kemp and Andre Ethier can do.

    The Dodgers started three players in Game 1 of the 1988 Series who had on-base percentages that were well-below .300 for that season, including shortstop Alfredo Griffin who hit for a .199 average that year.

    Given that Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis and Luis Cruz's 2012 seasons all would have been one of the better overall performances on the 1988 World Series team, we can safely pick a winner in this category.

    Edge: 2013 Dodgers

Rotation

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    You'd think a pitching staff headed by a 24-year-old former Cy Young winner might be a nice head start in a comparison like this. But that is not the case when the 1988 version was led by one of the best pitchers of all time, Orel Hershiser. 

    In that 1988 season, Hershiser went 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP on his way to winning the Cy Young Award in a landslide. Add that to his teammate Gibson's runaway win in the MVP race, and you can understand why they got to the World Series.

    Overall, the team ERA in 1988 was a ridiculous 2.96, led by Hershiser, Tim Leary and Tim Belcher—with the latter two sporting identical 2.91 ERA's. 

    Even with the 2013 team led by Clayton Kershaw and with the new addition of former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, they can not match up to the performance of the franchise's last World Series rotation.

    Those two and Josh Beckett would all have to have career years to even come close.

    Edge: 1988 Dodgers

Bullpen

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    I know what you're thinking: obviously the edge goes to the 1988 team here because of that low team ERA.

    Well, think again.

    The individual seasons by most of the relievers on that team may have been better, but the collective effort of last year's Dodger bullpen was nothing short of incredible.

    Of the relievers who logged at least 25 innings in Dodger blue last season, only Jamey Wright and Shawn Tolleson had ERA's above 3.02. You also have to take into account that bullpen roles were completely different in the 80's than they are now.

    The closer's role was present, but not as necessary and established. Nowadays, teams are expected to have at least one specialist for each side, a solid long-reliever and a seventh, eighth and ninth-inning specialist. 

    It's a hard category to determine, because even though the 1988 team had a slightly lower ERA in the 'pen, the 2013 version will be returning most of a group who had a very good K/9 and finished third in the league overall.

    Edge: Push

Fielding

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    For all the good Gibson did with his bat and on the basepaths, he sure was a clunker in the outfield, amassing 12 errors. In fact, that Dodgers team had a handful of players who made double-digit errors. In comparison, the 2012 team only had one—Dee Gordon had an abysmal 18 errors in a half a season at shortstop.

    This is a pretty simple unit to determine. Both teams were good, but not great fielding clubs.

    In terms of the 2013 version, you've got two of the better defenders in the outfield for the National League in Kemp and Ethier, plus one of the best defending second baseman of all time, statistically, in Mark Ellis. Gonzalez is slick at first, Kershaw defends the bump better than most, and A.J. Ellis is above-average behind the dish.

    In the end, it comes down to overall fielding percentage. The 1988 team fielded at a .977 clip, and the 2012 Dodgers .984 total will probably increase next year with Gonzalez at first for a full season.

    Edge: 2013 Dodgers

Bench

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    For how below-average the starting lineup of the Dodgers was in 1988, they actually had pretty solid consistency across the board for their role players. The 2013 Dodgers got stronger with the signing of Skip Schumaker, but is it enough?

    Juan Uribe is still on the roster, as is Gordon. Tim Federowicz will be getting his first legit playing time in 2013 by backing up A.J. Ellis. Otherwise, we are looking at a good role player in Jerry Hairston, Jr. and an average one in Elian Herrera.

    One of the reasons that 1988 team was able to reach the postseason and thrive in the World Series was because they got 150 RBI off the bench throughout the season. They had plenty of pop from the backups.

    If Federowicz has a great rookie year and Gordon bounces back, the Dodgers will have a shot to equal the clout that the reserve players in '88 brought. Still, I don't quite see them reaching that threshold, and I'll give the 1988 Dodgers a slight edge here because of it.

    Edge: 1988 Dodgers

Coaching

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    I apologize in advance for the brevity of this slide.

    The Dodgers have assembled a heck of a staff for 2013. They return everyone from a very good group in 2012, but replaced Dave Hansen with Mark McGwire as a hitting coach.

    That being said, the 1988 team was led by one of the more charismatic managers we've ever seen in Tommy Lasorda. And the things he and his staff were able to do with a less-than-stellar roster that season was beyond impressive.

    The 1988 team gets the nod here, without a doubt.

    Edge: 1988 Dodgers

Overall

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    It's a tough sell for anyone to top a World Champion team with one that has all its accolades "on paper," but what we saw (well, what I wished I saw) in 1988 was definitely an unlikely championship run. Yet, a title is a title.

    The 1988 team gets the nod for me by a small margin, mostly because they had such an amazing rotation and an inspiring group of coaches. If the 2013 team wants to match their overall success and pave the way to the franchise's first title in 25 years, the rotation will have to be exceptionally good.

    As we've seen over recent years—and implied by the 1988 team before them—good pitching wins championships. The current Dodgers team has the pieces in place, but Greinke, Beckett and the rest of the rotation will need to step it up. 

    An MVP-caliber season from one of the big bats wouldn't hurt either. A lot of it will hinge on the depth off the bench, too—one thing that fans have been worried about. Schumaker and Hairston, Jr. seem like locks for pretty nice years, but will Gordon and the rest of the lot be able to make up the difference?

    Time will tell. Less than 100 days until Opening Day, Dodger fans!

    Edge: 1988 Dodgers


    You can tweet Jeremy @Jamblinman if you want to talk Dodger baseball...or any other sport for that matter!

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