February 21, 2013 | By Wes Williams @wawillia70
When the Dodgers first left Brooklyn for the sunny skies of Los Angeles, the team won the World Series three times in the first eight years.
Thanks to a projected $213 million dollar payroll, expectations for the Dodgers are high heading into the next eight with owners expecting multiple championships. No longer will it be good enough to get to the NLCS and lose, Magic Johnson and the rest of the ownership group wants World Series trophies.
But do the Dodgers have what it takes to win this year? How do the current Dodgers compare to those early championship teams?
Playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum makes it hard to compare statistics with the current Dodgers, who are playing in Dodger Stadium. The 1963 and 1965 Dodger championship teams make for better comparisons.
Offensively, the 1963 Dodgers and the 2012 team have similar numbers. Only three runs separate the year totals between those teams with the 1963 team scoring 640 to the 2012 team’s total of 637.
The difference was how they scored runs. In 1963, the Dodgers did not hit many home runs as only three players finished with a double digit homerun total. Frank Howard was the only true homerun hitter on the team and he led them with 28.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers had double digit homerun totals from six players in 2012 and are expected to rely on the longball this season. The current Dodgers more resemble the teams from the late 70’s when Reggie Smith, Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, and Steve Garvey led the team to the World Series with the long ball.
If Matt Kemp is healthy, he will certainly put up 30 homeruns in 2013. Adrian Gonzalez is a few seasons removed from 40 homeruns and could easily get back to that mark with the help of new hitting coach Mark McGwire. Hanley Ramirez and Andre Eithier will each hit at least 20 this season.
Since the Dodgers could not hit for power in 1963 and 1965, they relied on sacrifices and stolen bases, aka “small ball”.
In 1963, the team had 138 sacrifices and 124 stolen bases. Four starters had at least 15 stolen bases. In 1965, the team also had 138 sacrifices, but the team stole an awe inspiring 172 bases. Maurey Wills alone had 94 steals.
Some people often said the offensive strategy for those teams in the sixties was to get Wills on first, have him steal second and third, then have him score on a sacrifice. With Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale on the mound, that one run was usually enough.
In 2012, the team did not play small ball and all indications are that they do not plan on doing it this year. The Dodgers only had 120 sacrifices and 104 steals last year. Another issue for this season is that Dee Gordon, who will most likely end up in the minors, accounted for 32 of those stolen bases.
It is possible that Carl Crawford could come back and be a force on the basepaths like he was in Tampa Bay. Kemp is also capable of stealing 30 bases in a season, but the Dodgers do not have a true lead off hitter that can steal bases like Gordon.
Luckily, pitching will be a strong point for the Dodgers this year, as it was in 1963 and 1965.
The 1963 and 1965 championship team had a strong lefty-righty combination at the top of the rotation. Koufax and Drysdale were two of the best pitchers in the game at the time posting a combined 44 wins in 1963 and 49 wins in 1965 on their way to championships.
Similarly, the Dodgers have a strong lefty-righty combination at the top of their rotation with Clayten Kershaw and Zach Greinke. Many experts consider these two aces as the best one two combination in baseball going into the 2013 season.
So which pair is better?
Looking at Wins, ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts per nine innings in those championship years and 2012 (see statistics below), it is obvious which pair of aces are better. Koufax and Drysdale combine to average better totals in each category except strike outs per nine innings.
Neither Kershaw or Greinke can compare individually to Koufax in almost any category. Experts often say that Koufax had the greatest six seasons a pitcher has ever had around those years. The only category Kershaw beats Koufax in would be that he struck out more hitters per nine innings in 2012 than Koufax did in 1963.
Outside of wins and games started, Kershaw does have better numbers than Drysdale. Greinke can only beat Drysdale in one category, strikeouts per nine innings.
Even if Koufax and Drysdale are better overall than Kershaw and Greinke, the current Dodgers have a deeper rotation with eight starters. Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsly, Ted Lilly, and Chris Capuano are all former all-stars capable of putting together fifteen plus wins this season.
The starting rotation will also be bolstered by a rookie from Korea Hyun-Jin Ryu. Scouts are high on the left handed Ryu because of his ability to pitch inside to left handed hitters and his strong change up.
With this many starters, the Dodgers should have a deep bullpen as some of these starters are turned to relievers and spot starters.
In the end, the Dodgers strength of pitching parallels the championship teams of 1963 and 1965, but the offense is completely different. Can the Dodgers be successful this season swinging for the fences as opposed to manufacturing runs?
Statistics courtesy ofBaseball Reference.
I see the light! I’m leaving the dark ages!
One of the most irritating parts of moving is going without internet and cable for a few days. I’m back, the website is back, and it looks like the Dodgers are back.
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Dodger Blue Bloods will return to action soon. In the meantime, check out a new app for iPad and iPhone called Fancake. It’s the best way to watch sports.