Dodgers Outfield Celebrating against the Pirates
Baseball's first week of the season just passed and some teams are showing their true colors. Other squads have injury problems and other issues that are hurting them now, but probably won't continue in the upcoming weeks.
The Los Angeles Dodgers went 4-2 in their first week. In ESPN's latest power rankings, the Boys in Blue are ranked No. 11. The Dodgers are a team that showed positive qualities, but there are still things that need to be fixed. It’s a long 162-game season that has a lot more time to develop.
Newly acquired players are starting to show an impact on the roster, which are positive signs. There also has been a lack of hits through the first six games, but sometimes players need time to get out the first-week jitters.
The team's backbone has been their starting rotation and it's ability to not give up many runs in big games. Consistency on the mound has been key for this team thus far. Quality pitching has to continue because it will bring this squad success down the road.
There are so many takeaways from the first week of play, but here are eight that really stood out:
Clayton Kershaw on the mound against the Pirates
Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw looked like not only the best pitcher in the NL West, but one of the best pitchers in baseball through his first two starts. On Opening Day, Kershaw pitched a complete game and allowed zero runs and four hits, while also striking out seven players.
Not to mention, Kershaw scored the Dodgers first run with his first career homer in the eighth inning. He became the first pitcher to throw a shutout and hit a home run in an opener since Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Lemon in 1953.
The success continued in his second start against the Pittsburgh Pirates this past Saturday. In seven innings, the lefty struck out nine batters, while allowing zero runs and only two hits. Kershaw showed consistency with his fastball and control with his curveball and slider.
Manager Don Mattingly is hoping that Kershaw can continue his dominance on the mound, which will help this team down the road. Kershaw's start to the season shows that he could be on path to his second Cy Young award.
Carl Crawford taking a swing against the Pirates
Many people around the country thought that Carl Crawford wouldn't be ready by Opening Day after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late August. Not only was he ready, but he has also stepped up as one of the Dodgers' best hitters.
In the first game of the season, Crawford went 2-for-4 with a double and scored a run. Crawford posted four multi-hit games out of six in the first week, including the opener.
Crawford is leading the squad with a .458 batting average and six runs scored. Those are excellent numbers for the leadoff man, especially when he didn't get to play that much in spring training.
Crawford has been one of the shining lights in an offense that has lacked at times. Hopefully, his success at the plate can spread to some of the other teammates that are struggling.
Matt Kemp unhappy after one of his at-bats against the Pirates
With the expectations high, outfielder Matt Kemp underperformed in the first week. In 20 at-bats in the first six games, Kemp only earned two hits for the team.
Of course it's just the beginning of the season, but the Dodgers need Kemp to provide solid offense to this team. Kemp needs to get more comfortable in the batter's box and find the right pitches to hit during his at-bats.
It will be interesting to see how long this so-called slump lasts, but the Dodgers are hoping things start to change for the better this week.
Hyun-Jin Ryu meets with catcher A.J. Ellis during the Giants game
Starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu had to step up in the first week and take the No. 2 spot for the Dodgers because of Zack Greinke's absence. Ryu had two different efforts in his first two MLB starts.
In his first professional game, Ryu allowed 10 hits and three runs (one earned run) in the Dodgers 3-0 loss to the Giants. It's tough to battle against the reigning world champs in your first start, but Ryu did his best until a bad seventh inning.
Getting adjusted to the league and used to nuances will be Ryu's goal in the beginning of the season. In the second game against the Pirates, the lefty showed improvements. Ryu struck out six batters and only allowed three hits and two runs, which helped earn him his first career win.
Overall, a 2.13 ERA and 11 strikeouts through two starts is very good for the youngster. The Korean pitcher needs to get better and improve with each and every start. Ryu could really turn out to be worth the Dodgers investment.
Adrian Gonzalez running around the bases against the Pirates
Adrian Gonzalez is coming off an excellent offseason with team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic and spring training. His success in February and March really set him up well for the season. Gonzalez was one of the best Dodger hitters in the first week.
His stats weren't very good in the first series against the Giants. Gonzalez hit one-for-nine against the defending champs and struck out twice. But, he improved his numbers in the second series of the week.
Gonzalez really excelled against the Pirates, hitting seven-for-11 in the three-game series. Gonzalez had two doubles and did a great job of getting on base.
He leads the Dodgers with six runs batted in and a .536 on-base percentage thus far. Gonzalez needs to continue his solid offensive production, especially with the Hanley Ramirez injury hurting the batting order.
Brandon League throwing the ball against the Pirates
The Dodgers bullpen has been a cause for concern over the years. Teams who have had success in the playoffs often rely on their relievers to finish off the job in big games. If the first week has shown anything, the Blue Crew's bullpen has shown growth from last season.
The combo of Kenley Jansen and Brandon League has been very useful for Mattingly. Jensen does a good job of setting up League to close it out. League leads the team with two saves and hasn't allowed a hit in three innings pitched.
Fans are hoping that the Dodgers get the full bang for their buck with League's big contract this past offseason. Other middle relief pitchers like Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell are getting quality time on the mound thus far, which will continue if they keep hitters off the bases.
If the starting five and bullpen can continue to play well, then the Dodgers are going to have a chance to win many more games this year.
Justin Sellers making a throw against the Pirates
The Dodgers have been having problems at shortstop. The Hanley Ramirez thumb injury really hurt this squad for the beginning of the season. 27-year-old Justin Sellers has had to take over the position and has played below average so far.
Through five of the first six games, the California native had only one hit through 16 at-bats. Obviously, the Dodgers are missing Ramirez and his presence on the plate, but there aren't many options. Sellers and Nick Punto are Mattingly's options at the moment, unless certain players switch positions.
Also, it doesn't appear that Dee Gordon is getting called back up to the big leagues anytime soon, especially with poor numbers in his first week in Triple-A. The good news is that Ramirez appears to be ahead of schedule with his recovery. The sooner he gets back the better the Dodgers will be.
Zack Greinke throwing a pitch against the Pirates
The anticipation for Zack Greinke's first start as a Dodger was building immensely in the offseason. When the Dodgers signed Greinke to the huge contract, fans had high expectations for him. In his first appearance last Friday, Greinke pitched 6.1 innings and compiled six strikeouts, while only allowing two hits and no runs.
Pitching against the Pirates isn't a huge test, but it shows he can make quality pitches and get the job done. If Greinke can consistently pitch like this in the upcoming weeks, fans will be satisfied with the Florida native.
Only time will tell if the Dodgers big investment will really pay off. But for now, it's good to see Greinke on the mound and producing solid stats.