As Buster Olney writes today, pressure on the Dodgers to win will be enormous. But will they be the team to beat in the NL West? Buster points out:
- The Dodgers, as currently constructed, could have a major defensive problem at shortstop with Ramirez. They look as if they could be vulnerable against left-handed pitching, and although they have again invested heavy dollars in their bullpen, there are questions about the quality of that group.
Let's have a little fun here and see what the potential of this team could be, since most fans will view this team through the lens of ultimate expectations. For each player, let's assume his best season of the past three represents his upside ability (which leaves out Greinke's 2009 Cy Young season or Hanley Ramirez's last monster season). Using each player's WAR from that season, we can then estimate a team wins total. To "cheat" even further, I used the highest WAR from either FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference.
LF Carl Crawford, 2010: 7.6 (FG)
2B Mark Ellis, 2010: 3.3 (FG)
1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2011: 6.7 (B-R)
CF Matt Kemp, 2011: 8.8 (FG)
RF Andre Ethier, 2012: 3.5 (B-R)
SS Hanley Ramirez, 2010: 4.6 (FG)
3B Luis Cruz, 2012: 2.6 (FG)
C A.J. Ellis, 2012: 4.1 (FG)
SP Clayton Kershaw, 2011: 6.7 (FG)
SP Zack Greinke, 2010, 2012: 5.1 (FG)
SP Josh Beckett, 2011: 5.5 (B-R)
SP Chris Capuano, 2012: 2.1 (FG)
SP Chad Billingsley, 2010: 4.4 (FG)
(Ryu is a rotation candidate, especially if Billingsley or Ted Lilly don't recover from injuries.)
RP Brandon League, 2011: 1.3 (FG)
RP Kenley Jansen, 2012: 1.9 (B-R)
RP Ronald Belisario, 2012: 1.4 (B-R)
RP Javy Guerra, 2011: 1.2 (B-R)
RP Matt Guerrier, 2010: 1.0 (B-R)
RP Scott Elbert, 2012: 0.9 (B-R)
Add it all up and we get 72.7 wins above replacement. Assuming a replacement-level standard of 50 wins, we're talking 122 wins or so, which I think just might pull out the NL West title. And you could probably do this exercise for every contending team and get to 100 wins.
Of course, not all these players will equal their best seasons of recent vintage. Crawford isn't going to be a seven-win player in 2013 and Ramirez's best days are in the past. Kershaw and Greinke are an excellent 1-2 punch, but the rest of the rotation has a high degree of volatility and health concerns (although with plenty of depth, including Aaron Harang). I'd pin their over-under in the low 90s.
Should the Dodgers be the favorite in the NL West over the Giants? Considering the Giants overachieved in some regards last year, I don't think it's unfair to pin that label on L.A.
What do you think?