2. How much offense are the Dodgers really losing?
Hanley Ramirez is a dynamic offensive player, who posted an .817 OPS despite long stretches where he didn’t seem to have it all together at the plate. The year before, he was at 1.040.
Few shortstops offer what he does with the bat, and over the course of a 162-game season, it’s difficult to replace. Still, the Dodgers couldn’t invest that much cash in a player who can’t field, particularly with Corey Seager on the way, and everyone knew it.
Ramirez’s departure was a given. Matt Kemp was arguably the second-best hitter in the National League over the second half of last season, and if he’s now fully and sustainably healthy after two injury plagued years — a legitimate question — could be one of the best in 2015.
Jimmy Rollins replaces some Ramirez’s output, if he repeats his 2014 performance. How much of Kemp’s production does Joc Pederson bring? Who knows. It’s almost surely a net loss. On the other hand, Dodgers catchers were catastrophically unproductive in 2014.
Yasmani Grandal (combined with a healthy A.J. Ellis) can’t help but be better. Meanwhile, Howie Kendrick is a legitimate upgrade over Dee Gordon at second base.
So yeah, these Dodgers will score less, but count me among those who believe the difference will be more than accounted for with superior defense. They were horrible up the middle last year. This year, with Rollins, Kendrick and Pederson, they’ll be very good, and the three will contribute to a lineup swapping thump for versatility.
Over the course of the regular season, I think they’ll gain more from the uptick in defense than they’ll lose in offense, besting last year’s strong run differential. How the lineup changes impact the playoffs, when runs are harder to manufacture and single swings carry more weight, is harder to predict.
The Dodgers could certainly miss having two big home run hitters. Then again, better defense would have helped last October, too.
CONTINUE READING: Final Burning Question The Dodgers Face