What do the Dodgers Have on Offense Now?
Perhaps no team did more to address their weakness than the Los Angeles Dodgers, who pre-deadline, had one of the worst offenses in baseball, ranking 26th in baseball in runs per game (3.92) and 2nd to last in home runs hit (63, one ahead of the last place Giants). They were able to fill some of their biggest holes as well, plugging up gaps in the infield with Hanley Ramirez, a 28-year-old 3rd baseman who’s only a 3 years removed from finishing 2nd in the National League in the MVP race, and outfield with Shane Victorino, a 31-year-old former All-Star centerfielder. Los Angeles, perhaps more than any other team, did more to help their playoff chances because these acquisitions have the potential to greatly improve LA’s offense.
Los Angeles had previously been getting abysmal performance out of their lead-off hitters. Don Mattingly has primarily used Dee Gordon and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the role, and they have been atrocious, ranking 3rd to last in the National League in on-base percentage (.279), the most important skill for a lead-off hitter. They also rank 2nd to last in batting average (.221), and last in total bases (121, 15 bases behind Pittsburgh). In steps Shane Victorino, a perfect replacement for all of Los Angeles’ left field problems. He can bat lead-off, where his current .364 on-base percentage, and .260 batting average will be a large upgrade, which will provide Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier with more RBI chances.
Victorino will combine with those two outfielders to make one of the best outfield trios in baseball, particularly on the offensive end, especially if Victorino can return to his 2011 form, where he hit .279/.355/.491 and received MVP votes, ultimately finishing 13th. The Dodgers would do well to then follow with catcher AJ Ellis in the #2 hole where his .392 on-base percentage would play perfectly, before hitting the big sluggers 3rd and 4th.
Hanley Ramirez could easily follow in the 5th spot, providing the sort of protection that Los Angeles’ lineup has been sorely lacking. Ramirez has provided excellent support from the 5th spot so far, hitting .280/.357/.520 with 1 homer and 7 RBI in 6 games. As long as Hanley is hitting with power, and stealing some bases (he’s got 2 so far) he’s a huge upgrade at 3rd base. Jerry Hairston Jr. has been a nice super-sub, but he’s overexposed playing 3rd base every day, and Juan Uribe has been a massive overpay since the second the ink dried on the contract. He’s only hitting .196/.255/.297 this year, which is below replacement level.
The rest of the lineup (James Loney, AJ Ellis/Adam Kennedy/Jerry Hairston, and probably Dee Gordon) are average at best, but if that’s your 6-7-8 hitters it’s not so bad. When Kennedy is stretched to hit near the of the lineup, and Gordon is leading off, that’s a problem and was one of the biggest reasons the Dodgers lost the early division lead they built up. With Ramirez and Victorino aboard, coupled with a good pitching staff (2nd fewest runs allowed in the NL) the Dodgers have a legitimate chance to make noise in the National League.
This team now has a chance to finish the season ranked in the middle of the pack in offense, which would be more than enough to push a top-5 pitching staff into the playoffs. Los Angeles also has the required star power for a playoff push, with defending Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw fronting the rotation and perennial MVP candidate Matt Kemp leading the offense, this team is loaded. And if Hanley Ramirez can find his MVP level form, the team’s offense could be one of the best in the National League.
No team did more to improve their playoff chances over the course of trade season. Now that it’s over, the Dodgers need to be taken seriously as a legitimate World Series threat, because the team is talented and in a good position to make a run. Los Angeles will face Arizona, Chicago, Miami, and Colorado over the next two weeks, giving the team an excellent chance to seize the lead in the NL West. The Giants have upgraded as well, by adding Hunter Pence, so expect a thrilling NL West pennant race.