Heading into the season the Los Angeles Dodgers were the overwhelming selection to win the National League West and named among the favorites to win the 2017 World Series. Of course, games are not played on paper, and Los Angeles has battled some inconsistency in the first month-plus.
But when compared to their first 29 games last season, the Dodgers, at 15-14, are one game ahead of where they were. Injuries have again been an issue, most notably with Rich Hill and his chronic blister.
When asked for their opinion on the biggest surprises and disappointments thus far into the season, the DodgerBlue.com staff mentioned the likes of the starting rotation, Logan Forsythe, Kenta Maeda and Chris Taylor, among others.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
I would say the biggest surprise this season has been the back of the rotation. Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu have all made solid contributions.
McCarthy is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA, Wood is 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA and while Ryu has a 4.05 ERA in five starts, he’s pitched well of late. They haven’t given the Dodgers the length they necessarily would like, but they all have been effective.
That’s a pleasant surprise considering the back of the rotation was the Dodgers’ biggest question mark heading into the season.
For me the clear disappointment has been the bench, which was supposed to be a strength of the team. Kiké Hernandez is batting .212, Chase Utley (.104 batting average), Austin Barnes (.207) and Scott Van Slyke (.129) before being demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, Franklin Gutierrez and Rob Segedin have already spent time on the disabled list. The lone bright spot on the bench has been Chris Taylor, who is batting .333 with a 1.044 on-base plus slugging percentage in 13 games.
Eric Avakian (@AvakEric):
When taking a look at the Dodgers roster, it is filled with pleasant surprises, unexpected disappointments and unforeseen circumstances. When examining the bench production, one name has stood out amongst the lackluster bench.
Chris Taylor has shown that he can swing the bat and play the field at the Major League level. Taylor was called up on April 19 and has since earned a spot in the lineup with the injury to Logan Forsythe.
In 13 games this season, Taylor owns a .333/.444/.600 batting line, going 10-for-30 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs. He’s made a case that he should have been with the Dodgers since Opening Day, after a brilliant Spring Training and some clutch hits thus far.
On the flip side, the biggest disappointment to me has been the lackluster performance from Kenta Maeda. The season has largely been an uphill battle for the him.
The 27-year-old allowed at least three runs in each of his first four starts, culminating when Maeda allowed six runs in five innings during a start at Chase Field. For a pitcher who so heavily relies on his location and combination of breaking pitches, Maeda has drifted away and incorporated more fastballs.
Maeda added a cutter in his last start, which has yielded positive results. While the concerns surrounding Maeda were about his longevity, it seems as though the right-hander needs to find that groove that helped him succeed as a rookie in 2016.
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel):
The biggest disappointment for me has been starting pitching for the simple reason that other than Brandon McCarthy, no one has met expectations. Rich Hill got hurt again, Hyun-Jin Ryu has been ‘meh,’ Kenta Maeda has been terrible and Alex Wood has been disappointing (as a starter).
Even Clayton Kershaw has a very mortal-looking 2.61 ERA, and has given up a run in each of his six starts. This group was supposed to be a strength for the Dodgers, but instead has been a fairly significant question mark.
As for the positives, the easy answer here would be Cody Bellinger, but it’s small sample size, so I’ll go with Chris Taylor and Ross Stripling. The Dodgers knew coming into the season they would need a backup infielder.
They didn’t know, of course, that Logan Forsythe’s injury would make this need more obvious. What wasn’t know is who would fill the role.
Kiké Hernandez won the job due to his versatility and ability to hit lefties, but while Hernandez has been brutal, Taylor has taken every advantage of his call-up to the tune of a .333/.444/.600 line with two homers. Not to mention he was already ahead of Hernandez defensively.
While Stripling’s 3.94 ERA doesn’t scream success on the surface, his transition into the bullpen has been rather remarkable. Thus far he has made 10 appearances — eight of which have been four outs or longer, while striking out more than a batter an inning.
Stripling enters Friday night with a 19-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His versatility should be met with more and more success as Stripling gets more comfortable with a routine in the bullpen.
Matt Borelli (@MattDodgerBlue):
The biggest surprise of the season thus far has been the effectiveness of the back end of the starting rotation.
Brandon McCarthy, finally healthy again, enjoyed a productive month of April, pitching to a 3.10 ERA and accumulating 0.8 WAR. Alex Wood thrived as a starting pitcher and reliever during the month, posting a 2.29 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 19.2 innings.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has even pitched well as of late after a rough middle of the month, allowing just two runs in his last 11.1 innings. On the flip side, the front end of the starting rotation has disappointed thus far; with the exception of Clayton Kershaw.
Kenta Maeda, who finished third in NL Rookie of the Year last season, really struggled with the home run ball in April, resulting in a 6.58 ERA and 5.16 FIP through his first five starts.
Rich Hill, meanwhile, made only two starts after a blister resurfaced on his throwing hand. Kershaw has held his own, but the No. 2 and 3 starters need to maintain their health and go deeper into games to avoid overusing the bullpen.