Dodgers fans must be ecstatic that 2011 is behind them. The McCourt divorce dragged the franchise down, and on top of that last season began with two Dodgers fans attacking a Giants fan. As the summer went on, Frank McCourt battled Commissioner Selig for control of the team. Now, the team is on the cusp of having a new owner. Even if the on-the-field product is a disaster this year, 2012 will be a win for Dodgers fans. That’s how horrible Frank McCourt’s tenure as owner has been.
Last year’s actual product wasn’t that bad. The Dodgers won 82 games, led by Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and the MVP-caliber season of Matt Kemp. With the impending sale, the Dodgers did not make any major moves this offseason, but they have some pieces to quickly turn the Dodgers into a competitive team in the NL West in the future.
The rotation will once again be anchored by Clayton Kershaw. He is one of the most exciting young arms in the game. He’s followed by Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley. Both pitchers had ERAs around 4.00 last year, but their peripheral stats show they were actually better than that. These three form a solid top of the rotation. The back of the rotation will be filled with Chris Capuono and newcomer Aaron Harang. Losing Hiroki Kuroda hurts the rotation a bit, but overall it’s still a strength of the team.
Offensively, the Dodgers were the definition of mediocre last year. They finished ninth in the NL in runs scored, eighth in OBP, and tenth in SLG%. If the Dodgers offense is going to improve, they need Andre Ethier to wipe away 2011. He struggled last year, with only a .421 SLG%. The Dodgers desires to be near the top of the NL West standings lie on Ethier’s ability to regain his power stroke. Additionally, youngsters Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis need to continue to improve. Gordon, as a rookie, produced a .325 OBP and a .362 SLG%. He was rushed to the big leagues, so the fact that he didn’t drown is impressive. The Dodgers are hoping that his bat takes a step forward this year, and they’ll need him to further develop to help this team remain competitve.
2012 is a year of transition for the Dodgers. They’ll have a new owner in place shortly, and the MLB roster is filled with several placeholders (Juan Rivera, James Loney, Juan Uribe, etc.). They have no impact prospects knocking on the door, but they have a lot of intriguing potential impact guys in the lower levels. If I were a Dodgers fan, I’d wait patiently for the new owner to start dumping some money in this franchize. Theirs no reason the Dodgers can’t become competitive year in and year out sooner than later. But that won’t start this year. The D’backs are head and shoulders above the rest of NL West, but the Dodgers, Rockies, and Giants are all even in my eyes. I see the Dodgers finishing in third this season with a similar record as 2011.