DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - On June 10, the Dodger faithfulwere probably laughing at my prediction of an 83-79 record for the 2012 season. On that day, all was right for the Blue. They had just won another game is convincing fashion, beating Seattle 8-2 to improve to 39-22. They had a firm grasp on first place in the NL West, and their lead over the Giants would swell to 7 games.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to L.A.’s second championship parade this year: Reality set in. On July 20 they were 49-44, 2 games behind the Giants in the division.
Sure, one can point to Matt Kemp’s injury, and Andre Ethier getting banged up didn’t help. But the Dodgers have deeper issues.
I just spent a semester teaching my first college level class, and I figure my grading skills have never been sharper. So why not unleash them on the Dodgers’ season to date?
Clayton Kershaw: B: He’s as good as it gets, but just not as dominant as in 2011. It’s tough not to grade someone against himself, and Clayton gets a B only because I expect so much from him.
Chris Capuano: A+: The dude’s 2.75 ERA (at press time) is almost 1.5 runs below his career average. Apparently, Capuano is that genius student who was just bored with school (pitching in the big leagues) until it finally clicked this year. The cavernous Dodger Stadium doesn’t hurt one’s ERA, but Capuano has done everything Dodger brass could have dreamed of and more.
Any Starter Not Named Kershaw or Capuano: C-: If I have to hear one more time about how Chad Billingsley has the “stuff” to be a great pitcher, I’ll throw up in my Darren Dreifort autographed garbage can. Billingsley is what he always has been — a kid who just will never be that good. Sorry, but his 4-9 record and 4.30 ERA are the truth.
Aaron Harang? He tries hard.
Ted Lilly was having a Capuano/Kershaw-like season before getting injured. If healthy, he probably would have woken up by now.
Kenley Jansen: A-: Everyone worried about the new closer early in the season. Jansen has settled in pretty well though and continues to dazzle with his strikeout capabilities. You just gotta ride him and hope he’s more Eric Gagne than Jonathan Broxton.
The Rest of the Bullpen: B: Ronald Belisario has been an especially bright spot amongst a pretty decent group. If they can maintain their performance it will cover a multitude of other sins.
Batters and Fielders
Dee Gordon: D-: Ugh. Every game, broadcasters remind us that Dee is the son of former MLB hurler Tom “Flash” Gordon. That may be a fact, but so are Gordon’s .228 batting average and his deplorable .280 on base percentage. Maybe I’m old school, but I like my leadoff guy every now and again to actually reach first base.
Dodgers Offense With Matt Kemp: B+: They were doing all the things necessary to win, and I admit that’s a lot easier when you have a Ruthian hitter like Kemp mashing. He makes Ethier even that much more dangerous. Heck, Kemp even makes “Dee minus” look better.
Dodgers Offense Without Kemp: F: They have none.
James Loney: D: He’s the Chad Billingsley of the offense. We know what he is and it’s not good enough for a corner man in today’s game. As a late-inning defensive sub, that’s fine, but L.A. must get more than 2 homeruns and a .247 average from their first baseman.
Don Mattingly: B: This guy is so rah-rah you’d think at times he’s the Dodgers’ head cheerleader, not their manager. Still, he is keeping this team together, which is no small feat considering how badly things have gone. This club could have fallen completely apart, but Mattingly wouldn’t allow it. If only he was young enough to still play first base.
New Dodger Ownership: D: How about a little help for the lineup? You can’t land Carlos Lee or anyone else? What, did you spend all you money on buying the team?
Ned Colletti: D: I give this GM credit for cobbling together a decent staff overall. Still, where are the reinforcements as the Dodgers’ excellent start slips away? And how is that Juan Uribe bounce-back season going?
Dodgers Grade for 2012 to Date: C-: This team is performing exactly as I predicted in April: Great beginning against an easy schedule riding the most feared hitter in baseball. Then, injuries and reality set in and here we are. The fantastic start was decimated by a 6-19 streak through mid-July.
That’s how it will go for the Blue for the rest of 2012. They’ll finish 83-79.
Dave Denholm loves two-hour baseball games, Mo-Chica and living Downtown.