Why are the Los Angeles Dodgers in 4th place in the National League West? Why is a team with a payroll of more than $216 million 3 games below .500 by the third week of the season, and already 6 games out of first place? To say they’re not getting much bang for their buck is an understatement.
This team, picked by many to win the West running away, is lousy. They’ve got one healthy guy who is a quality starting pitcher, one guy who can drive in runs, and no one who can hit for power. They’ve managed to score 47 runs in 17 games which means they score less than 3 runs per game. Couple that with a team ERA of 3.70 and they should be thankful they’re not 0-17. Who are these guys who are earning so much money and producing so little?
Zach Grienke, at $21 million, is famously out with a broken collarbone for at least another month after giving the team only 11 innings. Chad Billingsley, at $11 million, is on the DL again after throwing only 12 innings in 2 starts. Josh Beckett, at $17 million, is at least averaging more than 6 innings per start, but he is 0-3 with an ERA of 4.68. The team’s ace, Clayton Kershaw, will be paid $11.75 million this year. Kershaw is 2-2 with a fine ERA of 1.88. Wait, 2-2 and giving up less than 2 earned runs per 9 innings? Something must be wrong with the hitting.
So let’s take a quick look at the Dodgers “offense” after reviewing the performance of more than $60 million worth of starting pitching, $32 million of which is currently unable to actually pitch. (Out of kindness I haven’t included Ted Lilly - $13 million and yet to throw a pitch during the regular season. I mean, why beat a clearly dead horse?)
We can start the offense analysis by noting the Dodgers have the 3rd lowest slugging percentage in the National League and no one on the team has more than 2 homeruns in the first 17 games. But what about individual performances? Hanley Ramirez, at $15.5 million, has yet to come to the plate for the Dodgers this year. ‘Nuff said about Hanley. Let’s go up the salary scale to Matt “$20.25 million” Kemp. He’s hitting .206 with 5 runs batted in and 0 homeruns after 17 games. That’s the sort of performance that would normally earn an option to Triple-A. So far we’re looking at almost $36 million and zero homeruns. Carl Crawford, who will be paid just under $21 million, is hitting for average so far, posting a more than respectable .349 mark. But he has just 1 homerun and 2 runs batted in, and he’s on pace to strike out more than 100 times for the year. So let’s go back down the salary scale and see if we can’t finally find some offense. André Ethier, at $13.5 million, is hitting .250 with 2 homeruns and 6 runs batted in, so no help there.
Back at the top of the payroll heap is Adrian Gonzalez, who will be paid nearly $22 million in 2013. Gonzalez is hitting for average at .377, and has a solid 13 runs batted in. However, here’s a guy who once hit 40 homeruns in a year playing his home games at Petco Park, and he has only 2 home runs this year. Let’s do the math on the offense: 17 games into the season (more than 10% of the way) 5 players who will be paid about $92 million have combined for 5 homeruns and 26 runs batted in. That explains why the Dodgers have scored a measly 47 runs to date, averaging less than 3 runs per game. It also explains why their ace, Clayton Kershaw, has an ERA of 1.88 and a 2-2 record.
If your offense can’t score runs, and most of your starting pitchers can’t pitch, I guess you have to settle for 4th place, even if it costs you $216 million to get there.