During the very early morning of this past saturday (or late friday evening), the MLB season kicked off with the first pitch thrown by Arizona’s pitcher, Wade Miley, for the first time in the southern hemisphere. As part of a global expansion marketing campaign, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers squared off at the Sydney, Australia Cricket grounds for the first matchup of the 2014 season with a 2 game series. The Dodgers swept the D-backs 3-1 and 7-5 respectively. Despite some lackluster comments leading up to the series, Clayton Kershaw was spectacular as usual recording the win with 7 strikeouts and 1 earned run in 6.2 innings pitched. Also, Scott Van Slyke, the 3rd year left fielder for the Dodgers, went 2-3 with a double off the top of the wall in left and a home run over the wall in right. More notably, the young star, Yasiel Puig, ended the first game going 0-5 with 3 strikeouts. He did rally in the second game with three hits but some base running mistakes to go along with it. With concerns over a sore back, Puig is listed as day to day with a potential need for an MRI. With the first pitch being thrown 10,000 miles away and the Red Sox’s opener over a week away, these two games were merely a light appetizer to a 54 course meal (162 games divided by 3 games = 54 series).
Although I typically do not follow the National League, it was interesting to see two of the better teams square off, even if it was only for 2 games. Even with the small sample size, I had a few pretty key takeaways from the Aussie series. The first was that the Dodger’s starting pitching staff exhibited pure domination against Arizona. Kershaw gave up 1 earned run in 6.2 innings and Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched a 5 inning shutout. Collectively that is a 0.79 ERA for the starting staff so far, which is an impressive stat even if it is only through 2 games. The Dodgers also have Zach Greinke coming off of a calf injury after pitching 5 scoreless innings a week ago against the Padres in Spring Training. Greinke has posted three straight seasons with at least 15 wins and a 3.31 ERA over that same timeframe. Their fourth starter is newly acquired Dan Haren, the 33 year old right-handed California native. He was previously an above average starter on the front end of a rotation but has not performed as well in the past few years. Over the course of the last three seasons, he has a 38-37 record with a 3.96 ERA with declining innings pitched each season. Lastly, there is Josh Beckett who is the former Red Sox starter and 2 time World Series champion. Currently, he has struggled statistically with a 7-19 record and 4.76 ERA over the past two seasons. Despite his past successes with the Sox and Marlins, Josh Beckett is currently the most overpaid 5th starter in the MLB.
On the topic of payroll, here is a brief analysis of the Dodgers’ total salaries. With a total payroll of $220 million, they are the highest paying team in the MLB by nearly $20 million to the Yankees (2nd overall) and $80 million to the Red Sox (5th overall). As previously analyzed in my first post, the Dodgers ranked among the worst in the league with a cost per win of $2.4 million and no World Series title to show for it. Their pitching staff alone will make $66 million over the course of this season. This totals more than 5 entire teams, including the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays. Each of these teams posted the same or more wins than the Dodgers during this past regular season.
The other takeaway surrounded the anomaly that is Yasiel Puig. Last season, he had a stretch where he was hitting above .500 for a period of time with acrobatic catches and a cannon arm in right field. He finished the season with a .319 BA, .534 Slugging, and 19 HRs. Needless to say, he could not keep up the astronomical pace that he began his career with but he will be an interesting player to watch over the course of this season as he starts to face the same caliber of pitching over and over.
With the 2014 season officially underway, the hype of this Major League season could not be higher. After a successful campaign in Australia, the MLB teams will look to chase the Red Sox as reigning World Series Champions. The Red Sox/Yankee Rivalry should occur at an even higher magnitude as Jacoby Ellsbury transitioned over to the Dark Side and the Yankees bulked up on free agents this offseason as Derek Jeter will conclude his career this season. Some of the young guns of the Sox will have to step into some major roles this season as Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr appear to have starting roles at SS and RF respectively. Regardless of the outcome, I am looking forward to another season of major league baseball.