Not the Start the Dodgers Wanted

AlmostTime

The Dodgers finally made it back to the World Series last year but were defeated by a team destined to win it all; Sports Illustrated called it long before the series began. We fans accepted the loss and were hopeful for the 2018 season. After all, the most important Dodgers were young and should return the next year even stronger. Cody Bellinger would have one full year of experience that would include playoffs and a World Series after being completely taken out of it by the Astros pitching staff. Corey Seager would continue his growth as an all-around player, Justin Turner would return and cement himself as the leader of the offense, and Clayton Kershaw would return for another stellar year on the mound.

The season is young, we’re only in May, but things could not be farther from what was expected. The Dodgers currently sit at the bottom section of their division. They have struggled to win games against other teams with losing records like the Padres and Marlins. They have been dominated by division-rivals Diamondbacks and Giants. And they’ve won a total of 2 series out of the 11 that have been played.

The Dodgers offense has been inconsistent, going through periods of drought before waking up to score several runs in a short period of time. But the pitching troubles have been impossible to ignore.

Despite the inexplicable support he receives from Manager Dave Roberts, Pedro Báez continues to give up hits and runs each time he comes to the mound in a close game. In years past, hearing California Love over the speakers all but assured the fans of an upcoming victory as the unhittable Kenley Jansen ran onto the field. This year, he’s blown two saves in seven opportunities and has a 4.97 Earned Run Average (ERA). Compare that with last year where he missed one save in 42 opportunities and finished the season with a 1.32 ERA.

Clayton Kershaw has been a different pitcher this year as well. He sports a 2.86 ERA and a 1 and 4 win/loss record. He recorded 4 losses in 2017 and another 4 in 2016 by comparison. His Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP) currently stand at 1.14. The last time he finished with a WHIP over 1 was 2012, the year the Dodgers were purchased by the Guggenheim Group.

We didn’t know it at the time but the omen that began the 2018 season was Justin Turner’s injury in late March during a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics. A broken wrist after being hit by a pitch meant he would be out until some time in May. Now in May, Turner is joining the team for batting practice and getting close to playing again but there are many others who are noticeably missing.

The biggest blow to date is the loss of Corey Seager for the remainder of the year. A UCL sprain in his throwing elbow means he’ll be one of the rare non-pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, who missed most of the last three seasons due to injury, suffered a grade 2 groin strain on May 2nd and will be out until some time after the All-Star Game. Ryu had been pitching well but considering the amount of time he’s spent recovering from injuries, it’s difficult to see if he can be a solid top-of-the-lineup pitcher again.

In addition to Seager and Ryu, Yasiel Puig, Rich Hill, Logan Forsythe, and Julio Urias are all on the injured list as the Dodgers continue to stumble through the early weeks of the season.

Finally, and it was bound to happen with this type of team start, ace Clayton Kershaw can be added to the list of injured players thanks to bicep tendinitis. We don’t yet know the extent of the injury but it marks only the latest in the long list of setbacks plaguing the team.

The Dodgers closed out the special weekend series against the San Diego Padres in Monterrey, Mexico with a 3-0 loss. They lost two of the three games in Mexico and now get one day off before playing two games at Dodger Stadium against the Arizona Diamondbacks; a team the Dodgers have beaten three times in ten attempts this year.

The baseball season is always long and grueling. Time will tell if the Dodgers can turn things around as the season continues. What is certain is that with the start we’ve witnessed, the joy of last year’s World Series appearance has faded for all Angelenos. If the team can’t turn it around in May, the hope we had for this year at the end of the World Series will also fade.

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