New Year, Same Dodgers

Having fun at the expense of the Dodgers is the right of baseball fans the world over. The despotic (former) owner and ham-fisted front office are the lowest-hanging fruit possible, making them perfect for the limited comedic range of Getting Blanked.

The Dodgers might employ one of the best pitchers and one of the best outfielders in baseball but two good players does not a franchise make. The Dodgers insatiable appetite for middling middle infielders becomes all too clear when you examine, as the L.A. Times’ Dodgers Blog did last week, the 2012 starting lineup. In a word? Grim.

The starting 9 for the famous Dodgers doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Behold!

But if no significant additions are coming, it’s not hard to visualize the Dodgers’ main daily lineup, at least against right-handers:

Shortstop Dee Gordon (L), second baseman Mark Ellis (R), right fielder Andre Ethier (L), center fielder Matt Kemp (R), left fielder Juan Rivera (R), first baseman James Loney (L), third baseman Juan Uribe (R) and catcher A.J. Ellis (R).

And let the rest of the National League tremble in its wake.

Sure, that group of names inspires very little confidence. But what of their numbers? What kind of contributions can we expect from this rag-tag bunch of plucky overdogs.

Luckily, the glorious ZiPS projections help us see into the future, even just a little. While hardly foolproof they do provide decent framework for projecting and/or laughing at the expense of the Dodgers. Let’s take a look at that lineup with their ZiPS projections alongside BA, OBP, SLG, HR, BB, SO, SB, CS.

  1. Dee Gordon – .271/.310/.339, 1, 32, 107, 55, 19
  2. Mark Ellis – .253/.303/.350, 6, 27, 62, 11, 4
  3. Andre Ethier – .275/.355/.447, 18, 61, 103, 3, 2
  4. Matt Kemp – .280/.348/.503, 31, 61, 155, 32, 12
  5. Juan Rivera – .265/.318/.408, 13, 33, 57, 3, 2
  6. James Loney – .277/.334/.407, 12, 48, 74, 7, 2
  7. Juan Uribe – .249/.300/.401, 11, 25, 75, 2, 1
  8. A.J. Ellis – .240/.356/.317, 2, 44, 48, 0, 2

That clump of projected numbers adds up to a grand total of three above-average hitters by OPS+ (Kemp, Ethier, Loney.) Jerry Sands might slot into the lineup against left-handed pitching, bringing his ZiPS line of .235/.308/.415, 19, 50, 142, 7, 3 to the platoon party.

If these projections hold and the Dodgers do get double-digit home runs from the middle and bottom of their order, they should consider themselves quite lucky. Though expecting Juan Uribe to do something positive 11 times in one season is really asking a lot.

Make no mistake: this Dodgers team will be bad. Possibly even worse than the lineup shown above as outfielder Andre Ethier is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. The Dodgers are certainly exploring their trade options as Ethier is due a considerable raise and the team, with Kemp’s big pay day already on their books and another one looming in the Cy Young-winning form of Clayton Kershaw.

The Cubs might be the perfect suitors for an on-base machine like Ethier, even after last season’s subpar effort. His departure might free up playing time for…uhhh…that one decent prospect waiting in the wings. Alfredo Silverio? Yeah, that’s him. Some people think he might be pretty good. That’s something, right?

The Dodgers offense again depends on Matt Kemp to match his career season. That isn’t easy, not with a massive contract extension looming overhead. The Dodgers are in such a place offensively that they will sorely miss the contributions of Rod Barajas. That is no way to live. Vin Scully, in his possible swansong, deserves much better.