Offseason decisions have given Dodgers flexibility, depth
The Los Angeles Dodgers will take a seven-game win streak into a series against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.
During the offseason, many Dodgers fans predicted catastrophe, even though the national media praised Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, and so far, their offseason moves have worked to improve the team. After watching the Dodgers for two weeks, they are definitely better this year.
For the first time since 2013, the Dodgers have adequate depth, so they don't need to panic when a player gets injured.
In the recent past, the Dodgers didn't have the luxury of giving a player a couple of days to nurse a minor injury, so they would put him on the 15-day disabled list and call up a Minor Leaguer, which often wasn't the best move for the development of the Minor Leaguer or the performance of the Major League club.
In the past week, the Dodgers have had three players who needed a couple of days rest. Juan Uribe, with a tight hamstring, missed only two games, but this rest prevented a more serious injury possibly requiring a trip to the disabled list. While Uribe was out, Alex Guerrero, who would be playing every day on many teams, filled in admirably, providing both stellar offense and defense. On two consecutive days, Guerrero's offensive contributions helped the Dodgers win.
Yasiel Puig missed three games with a tight hamstring. In the past, the Dodgers might have put him on the DL. While Puig sat, André Ethier played his natural position and contributed to the offense. On Saturday against the Colorado Rockies, Puig returned to the lineup and had two important hits. Although manager Don Mattingly gave Puig another day off Sunday, he is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday.
Video: [email protected]: Puig drives in Rollins with a double During the offseason, most Dodgers fans worried whether the team could generate enough offense. The Dodgers didn't re-sign Hanley Ramirez. Although he didn't perform well offensively in 2014, the fans remember what he did in 2013, when he wasn't injured. Many fans perceive Ramirez as a great offensive force in the lineup, but it can be argued his poor defense allows more runs than his superior offense produces.
Trading Matt Kemp was an unpopular move. After all, Dodgers fans had watched him develop into a superstar, but he hasn't conquered his tendency to chase breaking balls on the outside of the plate so that he strikes out over a hundred times a season. His defense in the outfield was subpar.
But even without Kemp and Ramirez, the Dodgers lead the National League in home runs, with 17.
If the Dodgers had kept Kemp, they wouldn't have a place to play Joc Pederson. Pederson did everything in Triple-A, becoming the first player to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the PCL for the last 80 years.
So far, Pederson has proven he belongs in the Majors. Although he has struggled offensively, he has come up with a few important hits while demonstrating a fantastic eye for the strike zone. But his defense in center field evokes awe. He never gets a poor jump on a fly ball. His above-average speed enables him to catch up to many balls that most center fielders don't get to. His throwing arm rivals the strength and accuracy of Puig's.
Video: [email protected]: Pederson makes a marvelous catch in center Despite having a little difficulty in the first week of the season, the Dodgers' bullpen has improved dramatically. The young relievers have settled into their roles. For 20 1/3 innings, they haven't allowed a run.