A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Nine: Los Angeles Dodgers
Say hello to the National League version of the Toronto Blue Jays, a pitching and defense dominated team with a mediocre offense. While the Jays ranked 20th in runs scored and 2nd in runs allowed via BaseRuns, the Dodgers come in at 24th and 1st respectively. Keeping in mind that the Dodgers didn’t have, and didn’t face, a DH and the gap between the two teams would close even further.
The Dodgers were punished in these rankings for having one of the easiest schedules in baseball this year, little wonder considering the division they played in. Nevertheless, their pitching was legit headed by three pitchers who roughly qualified as number two starters. Chad Billingsley moved into the rotation nearly full time this season and responded positively with a jump in strikeouts and groundballs and a reduction in walks.
Hiroki Kuroda fell off the radar a bit after a horrible nine starts in June and July, but he bookended those with 11 great starts on each side and added a second groundball heavy pitcher alongside Billingsley. Of course, neither of those two could compare to the third pitcher of the group, Derek Lowe, who actually saw his groundball rate diminish this season, but compensated with much fewer walks.
The bullpen had a fearsome trio of it’s own. Jonathan Broxton continued his dominance and although Takashi Saito took a step back both from a performance and a health perspective, Hong-Chih Kuo finally enjoyed enough health to show what an asset he can be with his ridiculous stuff.
Unfortunately, for as good as the pitching was, the hitting was underwhelming, in some part due to the injury to Rafael Furcal. But the Andruw Jones experiment sure backfired and looks beyond horrible now. Mark Sweeney was terrible, Juan Pierre was the usual Juan Pierre (bad). It’s almost frightening to think how bad the offense would have finished without the Manny Ramirez trade.
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