Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout the 2014 Major League season we will be keeping tabs on where the Dodgers place in the Power Rankings created by some of the smartest and most analytical writers around. One of the writers I really enjoy following, and whom I trust a great deal, is Jonah Keri of Grantland.com. In his third installment of his Power Rankings, which come out every Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers were ranked first.
While Power Rankings obviously mean nothing to the actual standings and can’t possibly predict what is going to happen to the line, it is a good indication of how really intelligent analyst value what your team has done in recent weeks and what their outlook is for the near future. Without question, the Dodgers are one of the best teams in the Major Leagues right now, not only on paper but in actuality.
After completing a sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix this weekend, the Dodgers moved to 9-4 on the season, 7-1 on the road, and 5-0 against the D’backs. Yes, that means that the Dodgers are only 4-4 against their other opponents this season, but that’s besides the point. The Dodgers currently sport the second best record in the MLB, trailing only the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers, who are 10-2 on the season and are riding an improbably nine game winning streak.
Not only are the Dodgers hot right now, despite not having names like Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Ellis, or Brian Wilson around, the team’s unheralded players are doing a lot of the damage. Adrian Gonzalez, who never gets his due because he’s so consistent, has been on an absolute tears the last week. Gonzalez has homered in four straight games and went 7/13 with 4 HR’s, 10 RBI’s and scored 5 runs in the series against Arizona.
While Gonzalez was clearly the Dodgers best player against Arizona, he may not be the Dodgers best hitter so far this season. No, that award is reserved for a player that we thought may not be a Dodger for very much longer before this season: Dee Gordon. Gordon, who added around 20 pound this offseason (where does he put it?!), has been an absolute marvel at the plate for the Blue Crew this season. Not only does Gordon lead the league in stolen bases with 9, including a career-high 4 in Sunday’s win in Arizona, he has learned the art of walking. Gordon has always had the speed to be a difference maker in the MLB; however, he could never get on base enough to make his speed a true threat. Something has changed in 2014. Gordon is batting .400, including a plethora of infield and bunt hits, and has a .457 OBP, which is off the charts. While Gordon will probably come back towards earth at some point, if he can secure more walks and keep the ball on the ground he may turn out to be the Dodgers every day second baseman after all. Alexander Guerrero may have been just the push that Dee Gordon needed.
The Dodgers pitching staff has been warm this season. Starts from Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm haven’t yielded desirable results; however, the core starters of Zach Greinke, who is 3-0, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is pitching like a Cy Young candidate, and Dan Haren have been phenomenal. Haren, who is now 2-0 with an ERA just north of 2, has been great for the Dodgers this season. If he pitches anywhere close to how he’s pitching right now for the rest of the season the Dodgers will be in fantastic shape.
While there are concerns about the Dodgers this season, specifically the health of their stars and the bullpen, which has looked surprisingly mediocre (thanks Brandon League), this team is still built like a Champion and has proved as much so far this season. Only time will tell how far the Dodgers will go, but the beginning of the season has yielded more hope to a fan base that already has championship aspirations this season.