BEAT LA !!! (via Jill Clardy)
At the end of last season, San Francisco gained the upper hand against their Southern California foes when they claimed the division title as the Dodgers faded down the stretch. After the Giants have taken two World Series trophies back to the City by the Bay in the past three seasons, the Dodgers are looking to reclaim supremacy in the NL West. LA ownership has brought in big names with big money, and their stacked roster may provide the team with enough juice to make some serious noise in October.
In this article, we'll see how these teams stack up by making head-to-head comparisons of each of their projected starters. On paper, who is the better team? Let's find out.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A.J. Ellis
2012: .270 AVG/.373 OBP/.414 SLG, 13 HR, 52 RBI
After making a few big-league stints since 2008, the Dodgers finally gave Ellis a legitimate shot to contribute on a regular basis in 2012. He played in 133 games and he put up respectable numbers from the catcher position. In every major batting category, he was not spectacular, but he was certainly solid. It’s noteworthy as well that his on-base percentage is more than 100 points higher than his batting average. It's a testament to his good eye in the batter's box, which served him well to the tune of 65 walks last season.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
2012: .336 AVG/.408 OBP/.549 SLG, 24 HR, 103 RBI
Buster Posey proved everyone wrong last year. He silenced critics who said he would never be the same player after a devastating leg injury prematurely ended his 2011 campaign. The kid from Leesburg, Georgia turned in an MVP season for the world champs. Offensively and defensively, he was instrumental in the Giants success. This year will be no different, as he will once again hold the key to the team's performance. Posey can hit for average. He can hit for power. And he's the heart and soul of the Giants' offense.
Adrian Gonzalez IMG_3335redsvsdogers092312 (via crymzn)
Los Angeles Dodgers: Adrian Gonzalez
2012: .299 AVG/.344 OBP/.463 SLG, 18 HR, 108 RBI
The average baseball player would be ecstatic to have the season Gonzalez had. But this past season was actually a down year for Adrian Gonzalez, who came over to the Dodgers in a mid-season trade from Boston. His power numbers declined, with his slugging percentage and home run total taking a hit. But even with that, his average was still right around .300 and he drove in more than 100 runs for the third year in a row. He'll be a key cog in the Dodgers offense this year, and that's precisely why ownership brought him in. With Gonzalez now acquainted with the dimensions of Dodger stadium, the home runs will likely come back up, and he'll be the batting force the Dodgers are looking for from the corner infield spot.
Brandon Belt (via SD Dirk)
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt
2012: .275 AVG/.360 OBP/.421 SLG, 7 HR, 56 RBI
Brandon Belt finally came into his own in 2012 after many fans and baseball pundits worried that he might never acclimate to the speed of the big-league game. The young first baseman has a sweet swing that's been compared to the likes of Giants legend Will Clark. Last year, he began providing an extra spark in the San Francisco lineup. His M.O. after his two years in the MLB has been making pitchers work by forcing deep counts. Belt will look to built on his 2012 season. Giants fans will hope that this upcoming season will be a true breakout year for Belt.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Mark Ellis
2012: .258 AVG/.333 OBP/.364 SLG, 7 HR, 31 RBI
Mark Ellis only ended up playing in 110 games last season after a severe leg injury sidelined him for nearly two months. According to the Los Angeles TImes, Ellis' injury could have resulted in amputation had it gone untreated. In 2013, Ellis will look to bounce back and return to his consistent ways. Ellis is a valuable veteran presence in the lineup. He'll get his hits and he'll help the Dodgers win quite a few games this year.
San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro
2012: .306 AVG/.348 OBP/.405 SLG, 7 HR, 74 RBI
Marco Scutaro is actually two years older than Mark Ellis. The wily Venezuelan Scutaro provided the Giants with some much needed pop that the organization probably didn’t see coming. After coming over to the Bay Area in a trade with the Colorado Rockies, Scutaro hit an incredible .362 while driving in 44 runs in just 61 regular season games with the Giants. That hit parade continued during their playoff run. History indicates he will not be nearly as potent with the bat this year. Scutaro is a career .276 hitter, and though he did not show signs of slowing down, a decline in performance from last year is to be expected. Nonetheless, he should still be a steady bat at the top of the Giants lineup.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Hanley Ramirez
2012: .257 AVG/.322 OBP/.437 SLG, 24 HR, 92 RBI
The Dodgers acquired star infielder Hanley Ramirez in a trade with the Miami Marlins last year in the ultimate attempt at making a playoff push. While that did not materialize in 2012, Ramirez could be a major factor in making it happen this year for the Dodgers. The 29-year-old stud from the Dominican Republic picked up his numbers a bit once he moved to the west coast. But he's still a couple years removed from his four consecutive seasons of hitting .300+ with at least 20 homers. Los Angeles fans would like to see him get that average up to that level once again. But his power numbers and run production are still indicative of an upper echelon shortstop. Hanley Ramirez is also a huge threat on the basepaths. Ramirez has showcased his speed throughout his career, as he's recorded at least 20 steals in every one of his full MLB seasons. Ramirez is a tremendous athlete with undeniable talent. The Dodgers however will go without their big-money shortstop early on, as Ramirez was saddled with a thumb injury in the WBC. He'll be out until mid-May.
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Crawford
2012: .248 AVG/.304 OBP/.349 SLG, 4 HR, 45 RBI
Though he built upon his rookie campaign, Brandon Crawford leaves a lot to be desired offensively. He's still very young at 26 years of age, so there is more room for improvement. But the Giants are certainly looking for more production at the plate with their regular shortstop. Crawford is an absolute wizard with the glove. His fielding percentage was just .970, largely in part to his early-season struggles last year. But he can pick it clean with the best of them. He'll make many highlight reels this year as he flashes the leather.
Though Ramirez will begin the year on the DL, his ability when healthy still outweighs Crawford's. But if Ramirez's injury lingers throughout the season, which it may, the advantage at short will lie with the Giants.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Luis Cruz
2012: .297 AVG/.322 OBP/.431 SLG, 6 HR, 40 RBI
With Juan Uribe failing to live up to the stat lines on his baseball card, the Dodgers turned to Luis Cruz to take the reigns at third base. In 78 games, he put up a nice average and he provided the Dodgers with flashes of promise. The 29-year-old out of Navojoa, Mexico has a real shot to seize the top spot on the depth chart. Cruz will fill out the lineup nicely for LA. Chances are however, he will not be a huge difference-maker for the Dodgers.
San Francisco Giants: Pablo Sandoval
2012: .283 AVG/.342 OBP/.447 SLG, 12 HR, 63 RBI
San Francisco's beloved Kung Fu Panda had a decent year at the plate in 2012. But management and the fans have seen Pablo Sandoval do a lot more with the bat. He came up big with his performance in the playoffs as the Giants rode his hot bat to another World Series title. Sandoval hit an unprecedented three home runs in Game 1 of the Series, with two of them coming off Justin Verlander, arguably the best pitcher in baseball. San Francisco needs Sandoval to perform just as well in the regular season as he did this past postseason. According to MLB.com, Sandoval is battling weight issues once again. He'll have the additional challenge of getting fit, along with making sure he continues hitting at a high level for the G-Men. The latest Spring Training stats show Pablo picking up where he left off last year, by hitting .435 in nine contests in the Cactus League. He also put up a decent showing in the World Baseball Classic.
CARL CRAWFORD WARMS UP wp (via imagesbyferg)
Los Angeles Dodgers: Carl Crawford
2012: .282 AVG/.306 OBP/.479 SLG, 3 HR, 19 RBI
Carl Crawford is looking to recapture some of his former magic after trudging through 1 1/2 injury-plagued seasons. Crawford's latest stats are through just 31 games, as season-ending Tommy John surgery on his elbow cut his 2012 campaign short. His career line of .292/.332/.441 would make the Dodgers prime time players offensively. On the Dodgers wish list will be that Crawford becomes the premier run scorer that he's been in years past. In his lengthy career, he's eclipsed 40 steals in seven of his MLB seasons, while topping 90 runs scored five times. By getting Crawford in a blockbuster this past summer, the Dodgers were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. If the left fielder is fully healthy, LA just might get that lightning. According to the Los Angeles Times, Crawford’s Spring Training just began March 18, when he went hitless in three at-bats. Not a good early sign for Dodgers fans.
San Francisco Giants: Gregor Blanco
2012: .244 AVG/.333 OBP/.344 SLG, 5 HR, 34 RBI
Gregor Blanco overachieved for the Giants last season when he had to step in as the everyday left fielder after Melky Cabrera's misconduct. Blanco played every outfield position for San Francisco in 2012, and he appeared in 141 games, far and away his highest total since he played in 144 games in his rookie year in 2008. Blanco provides great range with his glove and closing speed in the outfield. He also adds a baserunning spark, as he recorded 26 steals last season. Overall however, for a starting left fielder, Blanco's numbers are severely lacking.
San Francisco Giants: Andres Torres
2012: .230 AVG/.327 OBP/.337 SLG, 3 HR, 35 RBI
Andres Torres spent a year with the New York Mets, and just could not find his stroke. Torres is a fan-favorite in San Francisco, as his surprise 2010 season lead to San Francisco's first World Series title. Giants ownership figures it will not be getting the 2010 version of Torres. But they still hope the 35-year-old can regain some confidence in the batter's box with the recent change of scenery. The Giants could go with a platoon in left field this year with Blanco and Torres. Torres is a switch-hitter, and that may be his greatest asset when he competes for playing time.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
2012: .303 AVG/.367 OBP/.538 SLG, 23 HR, 69 RBI
After an MVP-caliber season in 2011, Matt Kemp struggled in 2012...that is if you can call 23 big flies and a .303 average struggling. Kemp is a lynch pin in this Dodgers lineup. Out of all of their star power, Kemp is arguably the scariest person to pitch to because he's widely considered the most complete hitter in their lineup. He was slowed by a nagging shoulder injury in 2012. He'll likely be back with a vengeance in 2013. Kemp should benefit even more now that he has help. In 2011 when he was runner up in the MVP voting to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, he had to supply a lot of the offense himself because he did not have as many hitters around him. This year, he'll be in a better position to succeed because of all the strong hitters in the LA lineup. If all goes as well as it should, he'll be protected in the lineup and he'll get more pitches to hit. Kemp is not a one-trick pony either. He's a good baserunner and he can run down a lot of baseballs in center field. Kemp is the epitome of an all-around great baseball player.
San Francisco GIants: Angel Pagan
2012: .288 AVG/.338 OBP/.440 SLG, 8 HR, 56 RBI
Angel Pagan actually ended up being a critical acquisition for the Giants in 2012. After getting off to a sluggish start, Pagan finally cemented his status as the bona fide leadoff hitter San Francisco needed to make its playoff run. He got on base quite a bit, setting the table for the big guns in the lineup. He was a rabbit on the basepaths, racking up 29 stolen bases and scoring 95 times. He hit a ridiculous, club-leading 15 triples. Pagan also made stellar plays in the field, using his top end speed to chase down plenty of would-be hits in the outfield. And he was a huge factor as to why Puerto Rico made it all the way to the finals of the World Baseball Classic.
Dodger Stadium (via LWY)
Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier
2012: .284 AVG/.351 OBP/.460 SLG, 20 HR, 89 RBI
After turning in a down year in 2011, the baseball world seemed to forget about Andre Ethier rather quickly. Well, last season made everyone remember just how good he can be. Ethier bounced back in a big way by getting more hits, scoring more runs, driving in more runs, and knocking more balls out of the park in 2012. His track record alone is enough to make Ethier a scary at-bat for any pitcher. He's a steady contributor to the Dodgers lineup. His on-base plus slugging percentage has been above .800 in six of his seven seasons. And he's durable, playing in an average of 143 games per season. Andre Ethier is a player any manager in baseball would love to have on their squad.
ESPNWeekend2011-084 (via Jeff Kern)
San Francisco Giants: Hunter Pence
2012: .253 AVG/.319 OBP/.425 SLG, 24 HR, 104 RBI
Hunter Pence is known by the San Francisco faithful as the biggest reason why the Giants won their last World Series. It was "Reverend Pence" who delivered a heartfelt speech, with fervor in his voice, and fight in his heart while the Giants were facing elimination against the Reds in Cincinnati in the NLDS. Pence told every member of the Giants clubhouse to fight for each other, because he was not ready to say goodbye to that group of guys. The rest is history. Pence's energizing presence in the clubhouse is well-documented. But the harsh reality is, he'll need to step it up for the Giants to stay in contention this coming season. Yes, he hit more than 20 home runs and drove in more than 100 RBIs. But Pence's on-base percentage was pedestrian and his batting average was the lowest of his career. When he was traded from Philadelphia to San Francisco, his batting performance grew markedly worse. In the orange and black, he batted just .219, and got on base less than 3 out of every 10 times on average. From the plate, he just did not have the same consistency he displayed in Houston or Philadelphia. The Giants will expect Pence to be a difference maker at the heart of their lineup. And he'll need to do more.
This one is too close to call. From a production standpoint, they are very similar. Ethier gets on base more, but Pence makes the most of his chances when it comes to driving runners in. He also adds that positive clubhouse presence.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
LHP Clayton Kershaw: 33 GS, 14-9, 2.53 ERA, 229 K, 227.2 IP
RHP Zack Greinke: 34 GS, 15-5, 3.48 ERA, 200 K, 212.1 IP
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu: 27 GS, 9-9, 2.66 ERA, 210 K, 182.2 IP (Numbers from Korean League)
RHP Chad Billingsley 25 GS, 10-9, 3.55 ERA, 128 K, 149.2 IP
RHP Josh Beckett 28 GS, 7-14, 4.65 ERA, 132 K, 170.1 IP
LHP Chris Capuano 33 GS, 12-12, 3.72 ERA, 162 K, 198.1 IP
RHP Aaron Harang 31 GS, 10-10, 3.61 ERA, 131 Ks, 179.2 IP
LHP Ted Lilly 8 GS, 5-1, 3.14 ERA, 19 K, 48.2 IP
The Dodgers have the best problem you could ask for coming into Spring Training. They simply have too many good starting pitchers! Kershaw is their unquestioned ace. At age 24, he's already won a Cy Young, and he led the league in ERA for the past two seasons. He's got great command on both sides of the plate and he's got electric stuff. Greinke is a huge star, and his addition this year will give the Dodgers one of the toughest rotations on paper. Plainly said, the Dodgers are one of only a handful of teams where Greinke would not be the number one starter.
Those two guys are locks for the rotation. But the rest will be sorted out in Spring Training, and possibly the beginning of the season. The Dodgers have so much starting pitching, they may move a player via trade to better their team.
Dodgers ownership has raved about Korean sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu. If this guy is the real deal, the Dodgers will be one of the most difficult rotations to face in all of baseball. So far Ryu has shown just some flashes of brilliance while turning in mixed results in Spring Training.
And though there's been some inconsistency with the rest of the bunch, guys like Billingsley and Beckett have high ceilings in the sense that when they’re on their game, they are tough to hit. And make sure to not sleep on solid veterans like Capuano, Harang, or Lilly either.
San Francisco Giants:
Tim Lincecum San Francisco Giants (via SD Dirk)
RHP Matt Cain: 32 GS, 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 193 K, 219.1 IP
LHP Madison Bumgarner: 32 GS, 16-11, 3.37 ERA, 191 K, 208.1 IP
RHP Tim Lincecum: 33 GS, 10-15, 5.18 ERA, 190 K, 186 IP
LHP Barry Zito: 32 GS, 15-8, 4.15 ERA, 114 K, 184.1 IP
RHP Ryan Vogelsong: 31 GS, 14-9, 3.37 ERA, 158 K, 189.2 IP
The Giants rotation provides the blueprint which many teams around the league are trying to copy, and improve upon. Signing and trading for big arms is en vogue right now, and it's because of the success of this group of guys. This past season, Matt Cain was masterful on the mound, with an extremely low WHIP of 1.04. He kept batters in check all year. And his year was highlighted with a perfect game against the Houston Astros. Madison Bumgarner had a huge season as well. The young lanky lefty from North Carolina made some serious noise as he stifled hitters with his deceptive delivery. Barry Zito went through a renaissance of sorts, having his best season in recent memory and shedding his label as a total bust with too big of a contract. And Ryan Vogelsong silenced the naysayers by having back-to-back winning seasons. The glaring problem with the Giants rotation was the struggles of former ace, and two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. His bloated ERA can be attributed to his lack of control, his failure to regain his mechanics, and his diminished fastball. For the Giants to beat the Dodgers, they will need Lincecum to adjust by pitching well to contact, having good command of his pitches, and going deeper into ball games to give the bullpen some rest.
The rotations for both of these teams are absolutely stacked. The Giants are reigning champs because of their stellar pitching. But if there is another rotation that seems a little more appealing on paper, it's that of the Dodgers. The Kershaw/Greinke combo gives LA an elite 1-2 punch. They will give teams fits this year. But until the games are played, there's too much speculation to be done. This one is too close to call definitively.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
RHP Brandon League: 74 G, 2-6, 15 SV, 3.13 ERA, 6.8 K/9
RHP Kenley Jansen: 65 G, 5-3, 25 SV, 2.35 ERA, 13.7 K/9
RHP Matt Guerrier: 16 G, 0-2, 3.86 ERA, 5.8 K/9
RHP Javy Guerra: 45 G, 2-3, 8 SV, 2.60 ERA, 7.4 K/9
RHP Ronald Belisario: 68 G, 8-1, 1 SV, 2.54 ERA, 8.7 K/9
LHP J.P. Howell: 55 G, 1-0, 3.04 ERA, 7.5 K/9
The Dodgers solid pitching staff is also evident in its bullpen. It's hard to find a weak link when looking at this group of guys. LA picked up Brandon League from Seattle this past July. League recently inked a $22.5 million, three-year contract to be the Dodgers closer. His best year in the 9th-inning role came in 2011, when League recorded 37 saves and blew just 5 attempts for Seattle. The Dodgers must have felt he passed the litmus test last season, when he converted all 6 of his save attempts after being traded to LA. Kenley Jansen has nasty stuff coming out of the setup role. Though he missed time with an irregular heartbeat last year, he's a reliable option when healthy. He and Javy Guerra are tough relievers with closer experience.
San Francisco Giants:
RHP Sergio Romo: 69 G, 4-2, 14 SV, 1.79 ERA, 10.25 K/9
LHP Javier Lopez: 70 G, 3-0, 7 SV, 2.50 ERA, 7.00 K/9
LHP Jeremy Affeldt: 67 G, 1-2, 3 SV, 2.70 ERA, 8.10 K/9
RHP Santiago Casilla: 73 G, 7-6, 25 SV, 2.84 ERA, 7.82 K/9
LHP Jose Mijares: 78 G, 3-2, 2.56 ERA, 9.11 K/9
RHP George Kontos: 44 G, 2-1, 2.47 ERA, 9.07 K/9
The Giants bullpen may be even more difficult to hit than the Dodgers pen. San Francisco's relievers just do not give up many runs. Their biggest question mark, if any at all, will be how Sergio Romo handles the closer role over the long haul. He was a pitching virtuoso in 2012 from the setup role. He was lights out in the playoffs, and especially dominant in the World Series against Detroit. On top of that, the Giants have the option of giving Romo a rest once in a while as Santiago Casilla could be given more opportunities to save games. Javier Lopez provides a different look with his delivery. Lopez is initially a lefty specialist, but he is equally tough on righties. Manager Bruce Bochy has shown confidence in Casilla and Affeldt, as they both throw hard and have tough pitches in their repertoires.
San Francisco gets a slight edge because of their lower combined ERA and their proven track record. Both bullpens will be team strengths going into the season.
DSC_0092 - 2012-05-07 at 06-46-54 (via Mad Peruvian Media)
The old saying is the games are not played on paper. And in this case it's a good thing because the side-by-side comparison shows these two squads are dead even. Provided these teams stay healthy (which is not a given over a long 162-game season), this will be a close race in the NL West.
The Dodgers have some good depth with veteran utility men Jerry Hairston and Skip Schumaker. In fact, Schumaker could be the short-term starting left fielder if Carl Crawford doesn't come back in time. The Giants counter with solid backups of their own with Andres Torres and Joaquin Arias. And the Giants may be striking gold with the performance of young outfielder Francisco Peguero in Cactus League action.
CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly reported that Giants first baseman Brandon Belt commented on the revamped Dodgers roster in early February. He was quoted saying "All I can say is, you can't buy chemistry." Team chemistry is something the Giants oozed during their 2012 playoff run.
The Los Angeles Times reported on February 15 that Matt Kemp fired back with his own comments.
"But we’re not worried about what people say," Kemp said. "I can already tell with the people that we have here that the chemistry's going to be good...We have a great team. We have all the pieces that we need to be successful.
People around the league have doubted the Dodgers team chemistry. Time will tell if they will click as a unit.
But there is no denying the immense talent on the Dodgers roster.
So what do YOU think? Which team has the upper hand? Who do you believe will take the division crown?