What to Watch For the Rest of the Season

With the excitement of the trading deadline fading in the rear-view mirror and Rubby De La Rosa‘s immediate future going along with it, we’re left with the realization that we still have 1/3 of the season left. While it may seem like an interminable slog to the finish line for a team that is going nowhere… well, I don’t quite know how to end that sentence.

Nonetheless, there’s still reasons to pay attention to this team during the dog days of August and September.

How will the Dodgers finish the season?

I’ve often said that if the club isn’t challenging for the playoffs, then whether they lose 87, 91, or 95 games really doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of difference to me. Still, it’ll be interesting to see just how this team responds over the final two months.

Currently, their 50-59 record is good for a .459 winning percentage. Over the course of a full season, that comes out to 74-88, which seems about right. You could argue that maybe they improve by a bit, since they had their hottest streak of the season in July and have won their first two in August, or you could also see them slipping somewhat as there’s some uncertainty in the rotation now that de la Rosa is gone. Either way, they’ll likely end up between 72-76 wins, which is almost something of an achievement for rookie manager Don Mattingly.

Also included in this is how high of a draft pick they’ll have in 2012; currently, they’re tied for 8th.

Can Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw challenge for the MVP and Cy Young Awards?

Awards are not won by WAR alone, but it’s hard not to notice that Kemp is atop the NL WAR batting  leaderboard, while Kershaw is third on the pitching list. The Dodgers haven’t won both awards in a single season since Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershisher had the honor in 1988, and while it’s unlikely to happen again this year, each should likely get at least a few first-place votes. The road is probably more difficult for Kershaw, who has to contend with Roy Halladay having arguably the best year of his stellar career while playing on the best team in the league, in addition to quality seasons from Cole Hamels, Jair Jurrjens, Cliff Lee, and others. If I had a vote, I’d probably cast it for Halladay right now, though finishing second to Doc is hardly an insult.

Kemp’s path is easier; he’s far outclassing Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, and Jose Reyes, though there’s some who will probably prefer Reyes since he plays well at a tougher position. Much of this probably depends on whether the Dodgers stay semi-competitive or completely fall apart down the stretch; the idea of national recognition alone gives the rest of the season an added bit of interest.

Who might get moved in August waiver deals?

Remember, July 31 was just “a” deadline, not “the” deadline, so we could still see some minor moves. If Casey Blake proves his health, he could be a nice bench piece for a contender, and guys like Rod Barajas, Dioner Navarro, Tony Gwynn, Aaron Miles, and Mike MacDougal might also draw some small interest.

Don’t expect anything above a C-prospect for those guys, of course.

Who could we see get recalled in September?

Here’s where the Trayvon Robinson trade really hurts, because he was the prospect we were most looking forward to. At the moment, there’s only six healthy members of the 40-man roster not currently in the bigs, and we’ve all seen them at various times this season: Ramon Troncoso, A.J. Ellis, Ivan DeJesus, Russ Mitchell, Jerry Sands, and Jamie Hoffmann.That’s probably it as far as hitters, though that could change based on injuries or trades. For pitchers, we could also see Dana Eveland or Jon Link come up from ABQ; less likely, though immensely more interesting, is the idea that AA standouts Nathan Eovaldi, Allen Webster, Shawn Tolleson, or Steven Ames could get a cup of coffee in the bigs. (Though if Tony Jackson is to be believed, we might see Eovaldi as soon as next week.)

That would require them to be added to the 40-man roster, but spots there are no problem whatsoever, since de la Rosa, Jon Garland, and Vicente Padilla are all still on the 15-day DL and could be moved to the 60-day list. If Jonathan Broxton‘s latest attempt at a comeback doesn’t work, add him to that list too.

Is this the end of (name a player) as a Dodger?

For a few long-time Dodgers, yes. We’ve already seen Rafael Furcal move on, and this is almost certainly the end of the line for Blake, who won’t have his 2012 option picked up. I don’t think it’s a guarantee yet, but I’d put it at 80/20 that James Loney is non-tendered, particularly as he’s fallen back off (.176/.225/.230 in July) after a promising June (.337/.381/.404). I also can’t imagine Barajas is invited back, since he’s been awful this year and Ellis is out of options for next season. Then there’s Jamey Carroll, who has been excellent, but will be a 38-year-old free agent in February.

On the pitching side, Hiroki Kuroda has yet to commit to whether he will return for another year or head back to Japan. My guess is that he wouldn’t have bothered rejecting a trade if he was just going to leave anyway, and he’s certainly still pitching well enough for another year, so I’ll say 60/40 that he returns. Broxton is still working towards returning this year; whether or not he does, he’s almost certainly gone. Padilla’s injuries have probably ended his tenure with the Dodgers, if not in baseball entirely. And who the hell knows what’s happening with Hong-Chih Kuo these days?

Who’s playing for a job in 2012?

Barring a completely unexpected offseason move, the only two hitters with starting jobs locked down for 2012 are Kemp and Andre Ethier. Juan Uribe will get his share of time as well if only because of his contract, though he’s been so awful that it’s hard to simply hand him a starting job.

The obvious answer here is Dee Gordon, who will play every day at shortstop for the rest of the season to see if he’s ready to handle the job full-time next year. I imagine Sands will get another good look in September as well, in hopes he can be part of the 1B/LF mix next year, and keep an eye on the two low-cost veterans who have been performing surprisingly well, Miles and Gwynn, as they shoot for starting jobs on next year’s team. If Eovaldi or any other prospects turn some heads in September, they could force their way onto the roster too.

Is this it for Vin Scully?

Yeah, it’s that time of the year again: wondering if we’ll see Vin back for another season. I have absolutely no inside info on this, and my guess is that Vin doesn’t either. If he doesn’t want to travel any longer, I’ve long felt a good compromise would be to have him call only home games, plus the short trips to Anaheim and San Diego, if he likes. If nothing else, he’s a reason to keep watching, because you never know how much longer we’ll have him.

Besides, he’s Vin. If he chooses to call games via cell phone from his bathroom, I think we’d all be happy to have it.

What’ll happen with the ownership situation?

Oh, wait, I know the answer to this one: it’ll continue to be long, painful, and make us hate ourselves. That was easy.