The Dodgers are off to a tremendous start. Currently at 9-and-1 and with the best record in baseball, media outlets across the land are starting to dub them as the comeback team of year. Matt Kemp, who already put up incredible numbers last season, has shown no signs of coming back down to earth. Kemp has six home runs on the year — all of which have come against the San Diego Padres — to go along with double digit run and RBI totals. When we stop and look at what the Dodgers have done to this point, however, we have to take two things into consideration: One, it’s only been 10 games and, two, those games have been played against the Padres and the Pirates.
Kemp and Andre Ethier have both gotten off to great starts on the offensive side, but the pitching staff that has more than played their part as well. As expected, Clayton Kershaw is off to a solid start despite battling an illness in his first outing and struggling a bit on Sunday. Then again, Kershaw is expected to succeed. Chad Billingsley, however, especially after a season-long struggle in 2011, wore a big question mark between the five and eight on the back of his jersey coming into this season. After two starts, Billingsley looks more like the ace of the staff than anyone else. He has 15 strikeouts to only one walk and one earned run in 14.1 innings through two starts. Let’s remember, however, that those two starts have come against the aforementioned Padres and Pirates. The Padres rank first (as in worst) in team offensive strikeout rate (25 percent, 11 Ks vs. Billingsley) while the Pirates are not far behind in fourth (23.5 percent) and rank last in team AVG (.188), OBP (.235) and SLG (.267).
Ted Lilly also found success against the Padres in his first start, but interestingly enough he allowed six earned runs over six innings while allowing eight hits – two of which left the yard – on a rehab start against the Inland Empire 66ers of the High-A California League.
In the bullpen, closer Javvy Guerra has yet to allow a run while racking up five saves. Saves are a product of opportunity and Guerra has made the best of his chances early on. However, he hasn’t exactly been dominant, striking out five while allowing two walks and two hits. It’s two early to dig too deep into the numbers, but obviously his .167 BABIP and 100-percent strand rate won’t hold. On the flip side, perhaps the most dominant reliever on the Dodgers roster, Kenley Jansen, has a 5.14 ERA, but has struck out 11 to only two walks in seven innings of work. According to data at FanGraphs, only about seven percent the balls put in play against Jansen have been line-drives, as opposed to about 66 percent that have been classified as fly-balls or infield pop-ups, the balls in play most likely to result in an out. Granted, two of those fly balls became home runs, but Jansen only surrendered three homers all of last season on top of allowing only two in 64.2 minor league innings. All the while, Josh Lindblom (six baserunners allowed in 6.2 innings) and Mike MacDougal (five baserunners allowed in 3.1 innings), have combined to allow only one earned run.
In other words, it’s early and stats and standings don’t mean all that much. If the Dodgers go on and continue to win through the month of May, then we might have a real story here. Until then, let’s stop from anointing them the team to beat in the NL West.
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