Gone are the power bats of Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp along with the speed of Dee Gordon, and they are replaced with veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick. The focus has seemingly changed to run prevention, rather than run scoring.
With 2015 here, we take a look at some New Years’ resolutions that key Dodger players must do this year.
1. Clayton Kershaw – Win In October
It’s hard to nitpick a player that won the Cy Young and MVP award last season, but Clayton Kershaw has one black mark on his record. Kershaw has lost four games in the past two postseasons, all against the St. Louis Cardinals, including two elimination games. While the easiest solution may be avoiding the Cardinals in the playoffs, it will be up to more than just Kershaw to help him get over the hump. Both seventh inning implosions in 2014 can be blamed on the left-hander, but it also didn’t help that manager Don Mattingly was afraid to go to his bullpen when Kershaw was tired.
If Kershaw can finally win in October, then the Dodgers should have no issue reaching the Fall Classic.
2. Yasiel Puig – Consistency
Yasiel Puig’s career has been one full of narratives in his short time, but his third season will be the one that could define what type of player he is. The Dodgers must have trusted his development on offense enough to withstand the losses of two of their best hitters. It will be up to the 24-year-old this year to solidify the middle of the order and provide production all season long. Puig got off to a strong start last year before cooling off in the summer and heating up during the stretch run. His postseason ended on the bench, as he struggled heavily against the Cardinals and was sat in favor of Andre Ethier.
If Puig can elevate his game even more, then the Dodgers will be fine with their new roster.
3. Don Mattingly – Trust Your Gut
After the first-round exit, it was the bullpen that saved Don Mattingly from receiving the brunt of the blame for the loss. It was hard to blame the manager for a bullpen that allowed runs in the first three games no matter who was brought in. One big criticism that he did get was benching Puig in Game 4. It’s very rare that a manager benches of his team’s best players in an elimination game despite any struggles. Overall as a manager, Mattingly’s biggest thing is his reliance on matchups, instead of trusting his players. The later innings often become the longest part of the game as Mattingly mixes and matches with lefties and righties, even if a certain pitcher pitches well against both sides. Mattingly is a players’ manager, yet doesn’t trust his players as much as he trusts traditional matchups.
If Mattingly can begin to get a feel for the game as a manager and trust his team, they will repay that trust with victories.
4. Brandon McCarthy & Brett Anderson – Stay Healthy
The two biggest signings of the Dodgers offseason are two starting pitchers that have thrown 200 innings in a season just once combined. One positive is that Brandon McCarthy did that just last season, but Anderson hasn’t throw 200 combined innings in the past four seasons. They are currently slotted as the fourth and fifth starters in the rotation and if healthy, should give the Dodgers one of the best rotations in all of baseball. While health isn’t something that they can necessarily work on, it will be key to the season that they come out every fifth day. The Dodgers used 12 different starting pitchers last season, and traded for Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia in August because of injuries.
If the two can remain relatively healthy and pitch to their potential, the Dodgers should have no problem reaching the postseason for a third straight year.
5. Bullpen – Don’t Give Up Runs
It’s easier said than done, but the bullpen for the Dodgers must be a strength this year. Until the offense gets clicking, the team figures to be in a lot of low-scoring games and that will put a huge burden on the relievers. By the end of 2014, the only arm Mattingly could count on was Kenley Jansen, who pitched just one inning in the postseason. Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Jamey Wright are out. Chris Hatcher, Joel Peralta and others are in. It will be a lot of mix and match until the proven arms distinguish themselves. The bullpen will get younger, despite Peralta, and it could become a unit to be proud of if everyone develops.
If the bullpen can become what it was in 2013, then the Dodgers will see themselves play even deeper in October.