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“In Lou of”- Who Owns LA?

The phrase “Money buys championships” has become a popular saying around Major League Baseball.  Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, and Tigers have spent a lot of money on their rosters, and on paper they appear to be contenders. What’s disturbing is that each of those teams have at least one player who make over 20 million per year, which is almost 50% of what teams like the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays spend on their entire roster. Every so often a team like the Rays and Athletics have a successful season, and still they get defeated by a team that spends more money than they do. The one exception in the last 15 years is when the Florida Marlins defeated the Yankees to win the 2003 World Series. Over the last 18 months, the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent more money than any other team. They have star-studded rosters, filled with MVPs, Cy Young Award winners, and batting champions. With spring training quickly approaching, many people feel that the World Series is going to be won by a team in LA. There is even talk of the possibility that both teams make the World Series, setting up a “Freeway” series that will ensure that one of them is crowned champion. Throughout this article I will examine both the Angels and Dodgers as teams, as well as which one has a better chance to win it all.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers new owners have a lot of money, and they have not hesitated to spend it. This off-season they signed the 2009 American League CY Young Award winner, Zack Greinke, to a six year, 147 million dollar contract. It is the largest contract for an RHP in the history of Major League Baseball. They also added a young LHP named Hyun-Jin Ryu to a six year, 36 million dollar deal. Ryu was a star in Korea before being signed by the Dodgers. These two signings totaled 183 million dollars over a six year period, and are just icing on the cake for the Dodgers. During the 2012 season, they made two ground-breaking trades when they acquired SS/3B Hanley Ramirez, and LHP Randy Choate from the Marlins; as well as 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RHP Josh Beckett, OF Carl Crawford, and IF Nick Punto from the Red Sox. Ramirez, Gonzalez, Beckett, and Crawford combined to make just over 70 million dollars a year. After all of these trades and signings, the Dodgers enter the 2013 season with a payroll of over 225 million dollars a year; a Major League record. These players have joined a Dodgers team that already has notable players, such as Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Dee Gordon, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenley Jansen.

Pitching:  The Dodgers enter the season with eight viable starting pitchers, for only five spots. Three of those spots are guaranteed to Kershaw, Greinke, and Beckett. The 4th and 5th spot are expected to go to Ryu and Chad Billingsley, but they will have to earn them. Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, and Chris Capuano are all on the outside looking in. It is possible, however, that one or more will be traded. One team can never have enough starting pitching. Most managers will tell you that it’s a great problem to have, and that it drives everyone to compete at a higher level. The Dodgers also have a great bullpen that features a good combination of righties and lefties, as well as five players that have all had experience as closers. Brandon League is expected to start the season as the teams closer, but if he stumbles, Kenley Jansen and Javy Guerra should see save opportunities. Both of them had time as the closer in 2012, before League was acquired. Matt Guerrier and J.P Howell, who will serve in middle relief, also have closing experience. Guerrier has experience closing from his time with the Twins, and Howell has experience from his time with the Rays. There are no holes in this pitching staff, and there shouldn’t be with the amount of money that the Dodgers are able to spend.

Hitting:  The Dodgers outfield has the potential to carry them to the World Series. Crawford, Kemp and Ethier are all-stars, and will be able to do some magical things in LA this season if healthy. They offer a great balance of AVG, power, patience, and speed to the Dodgers lineup. Catcher, A.J. Ellis, is entering his second season as the everyday guy, and looks to build off a season where he hit 13 home runs and batted .270. He should have no problem doing so with all of the talent around him. The Dodgers infield is also very talented, but it comes with some question marks about who will play where. Gonzalez and Mark Ellis seem to be locks at 1B and 2B, and Hanley Ramirez is going to be playing somewhere on the left side of the infield. Luis Cruz proved to be a solid player at 3B last season, but for him to be able to play every day, Dee Gordon (a young dynamic SS) would have to come off the bench. In my opinion, the Dodgers are at their best with Gonzalez at 1B, Ellis at 2B, Gordon at SS, and Ramirez at 3B. They are a team with a lot of depth, which gives them many options to work with.

Dodgers Projected Rotation and Lineup:

1. Clayton Kersahw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Josh Beckett
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Chad Billingsley

Set Up: Kenley Jansen
Closer: Brandon League

Batting Order:
1. Dee Gordon
2. Carl Crawford
3. Matt Kemp
4. Adrian Gonzalez
5. Hanley Ramirez
6. Andre Ethier
7. A.J. Ellis
8. Mark Ellis
9. Pitcher

Los Angeles Angels:

The Angels enter the season with a much different starting rotation than they had in 2012. Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are now with Washington and Kansas City, and Garret Richards and Jerome Williams will be used as depth/trade bait, rather than as 4th or 5th starters. This off-season, the Angels traded for RHP Tommy Hanson from the Atlanta Braves, and LHP Jason Vargas from division rivals, the Seattle Mariners. They also signed RHP Joe Blanton, who has plenty of playoff experience from his time spent with the Phillies. Let’s not forget about their signing of LHP C.J. Wilson to a five year, 77.5 million dollar contract last off-season. All four of these fairly recent acquisitions will join Angels ace, Jered Weaver, in the starting rotation. They also signed RHP Ryan Madson to be the teams closer in 2013. The Angels weren’t just busy in the pitching market the last two off-seasons. In fact, they shocked the baseball world not once, but twice in the last two years with other acquisitions. Last year they signed 1B Albert Pujols to 10 year, 254 million dollar contract, that includes incentives that can make it worth up to 260 million dollars. If that wasn’t enough, this off-season they signed OF Josh Hamilton to a five year, 125 million dollar contract. Pujols and Hamilton are the core of an Angels team, that has great young players like Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, and 2012 ROTY Mike Trout.

Pitching:  The Angels pitching staff doesn’t have the big names it did last year, with the loss of Haren and Santana. It is, however, deeper and, in my opinion, better. Weaver is a CY Award candidate every year, and C.J. Wilson is a strikeout machine that’s spent his entire career pitching in the AL West division. Vargas has been a steady contributor over the last few years for Seattle, and should flourish on a team that can provide him run support. Tommy Hanson is coming off the worst season of his four year career, but he is still only 26-years-old with a career ERA of 3.61. Blanton is a seasoned veteran that provides innings and playoff experience to a rotation that has very little of it. The Angels bullpen has a lot of question marks heading into the season. It wasn’t too good last year, and it hasn’t gotten much better. Jordan Walden is gone, and an injury plagued Ryan Madson is now the teams closer. Ernesto Frieri had his first good season last year, and will be acting as the secondary closer option. An aging Scott Downs, and newly acquired Sean Burnett will act as the LH specialists in 2013. The skill is there for the Angels bullpen to succeed, but they have to stay healthy and pitch at their best.

Hitting:  Like the Dodgers, the Angels have an outfield that can win them a championship. Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos make up what could be the best OF in the MLB. If, for some reason, Bourjos doesn’t produce offensively, Mark Trumbo will move from DH to RF, and he has hit 61 home runs in his first two seasons as a big leaguer. He also happens to be the worst of the 3 outfielders. The Angels have Albert Pujols playing 1B, Howie Kendrick at 2B, Erick Aybar at SS, and Alberto Callaspo at 3B. All four of these players can hit for AVG and get on base frequently. Pujols is possibly the best player of all time, Aybar has 30 SB potential, Kendrick has the potential to hit 20 home runs, as well as hit over .300. There are only a handful of 2B who can do that. Callaspo is a pesky hitter who can hit all over the lineup because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. This is a very talented infield and I’m going to go as far as saying that they are an underrated one as well. The catching duties will fall on Chris Iannetta, who has a lot of power for a catcher. He has never had more than 350 ABs in a season (generally an everyday player has 500 or more), but he has had seasons where he has hit 18, 16, and 14 home runs. As you can see, this is a very talented offensive team, that will be extremely difficult to beat with any level of consistency.

Angels Projected Rotation and Lineup:

1. Jered Weaver
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Tommy Hanson
4. Jason Vargas
5. Joe Blanton

Set up: Ernesto Frieri
Closer: Ryan Madson

1: Mike Trout
2: Erick Aybar
3. Albert Pujols
4. Josh Hamilton
5. Mark Trumbo
6. Howie Kendrick
7. Alberto Callaspa
8. Chris Iannetta
9. Peter Bourjos

The Angels and Dodgers both have very good teams and are positioned to win a championship, not just this year, but for years to come. They both have incredible team speed, great team defense, solid starting pitching, and talented batting orders. Even with all of this, there is no guarantee that either teams makes the playoffs, let alone wins it all. I believe, however, that they are two of baseballs elite teams, and that they could meet in the World Series. If this happens, only one team can win, and I believe that team will be the Dodgers. What separates a championship team from the rest is pitching. Even in this case, in which both teams have great starters, the Dodgers have a superior bullpen, that gives them an obvious advantage. Only time will tell us who owns LA, and whether or not money will again buy a championship.

Louis Friedlander
Twitter Handle – @In_Lou_Of

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Corey D Roberts

    February 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Very well designed piece for sure Lou. However, I would lean to the side of the Angels. I just do not think that the Dodgers offense will be that good even with those players. I think they will struggle to score runs. I like Kemp, Gonzalez, and Gordon. Crawford is not the same Crawford from TB, Ethier is grossly overrated, and Hanley just plain does not give a shit. Ramirez has oodles of talent for sure and the reason he can not put it together is because he is not a competitor. I do like the Dodgers SP more than the Angels and I think the bullpen is a tie on all angles. I do not think the Dodgers have a shot at their own division and I am leaning towards Arizona as the NL West winner. Then there is SF that is clearly 1 or 2 in that division. The Angels get to pitch a healthy amount of games in pitcher friendly parks like Seattle and Oakland not to mention their own park. I need to see more how the spring plays out before I hop on the band wagon with any team. Nice job Louis.

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