So we're about 50 games through the season, and thus far there hasn't been much to smile about for the 'ol Boys in Blue. While expectations going into 2011 were not set abnormally high, I think most would agree that this season has been underwhelming at best. Although, while there have been plenty of reasons to be discouraged, there are--believe it or not--encouraging signs on the horizon. Let's take a look at where we are 51 games into the season.
-Injuries. Dodgers players have missed a combined 303 games so far this season due to injury. Furcal, Blake, Broxton, Kuo, Padilla, and Uribe have all spent time on the DL, with Furcal being the only one who is currently active.
-The Offense. Among the 16 National League teams, the Dodgers rank 13th in Runs, 11th in OBP, 13th in OPS, and 13th in WOBA. To make matters worse, since May 1st the team ranks dead last in each of those categories, save OBP (the Nationals are .001 worse).
-James Loney. According to Fangraphs, Loney has been the least valuable offensive first baseman in all of baseball--and it's not even close. His .257 WOBA ranks dead last and his .287 SLG puts him 9th to last among ALL POSITION PLAYERS. Not exactly the kind of production you like to see from your first baseman.
-The Bullpen. The Dodgers' 4.86 ERA and 1.53 WHIP rank last and second-to-last in the National League. What was thought to be a sure thing in Jansen, Kuo, and Broxton has turned into a disaster, culminating into an MLB worst 9.71 ERA in the 9th inning.
-Matt Kemp. Despite coming back down to earth a bit in May (.253/.330/.494 statline), he still ranks as the second most valuable National Leaguer. His walk percentage is the highest of his career, he's driving the ball to all parts of the field, and his baserunning has vastly improved (13 for 16 SB). While his defense still noticeably lacks from time to time, it's safe to say that he has been the constant shining star on the team, and has managed to almost singlehandedly keep the Dodgers within striking distance in the West.
-Jerry Sands. It's time to move this kid to first base. He may have gotten off to a slow start, but it has become increasingly clear that he is an important part of the Dodgers' future. In his last 16 games he has a .927 OPS, 2 HR, and 10 walks. He's only 23 years old, and already he's establishing himself as a legitimate power threat at the Major League level.
-Starting Pitching. While the relief pitching has been nothing but a headache, the starters have been just the opposite. Kershaw, Billingsley, and Kuroda have all been very solid, with Garland and Lilly providing average 4/5 starter production. The starting pitching currently ranks 5th in ERA, 2nd in Strikeouts, 5th in WHIP, and 3rd in Innings Pitched.
So I guess the point of this post (other than to get my first one out of the way) is that with all the bad things that have happened with the Dodgers this season, there have been some positives as well. Take it for what it's worth. First post in the books, son!