St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: Los Angeles Dodgers

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With new-look Manager Dave Roberts at the helm in 2016, the Los Angeles Dodgers will look to win their fourth consecutive National League West title. The St. Louis Cardinals play the Dodgers six times this year.

2015 Record: 92-70

Notable Departures: Manager Don Mattingly, SP Zach Greinke, RP Juan Nicasio, RP Jim Johnson,

Notable Newcomers: RP Joe Blanton, SP Scott Kazmir

Against St. Louis in 2016: 3 games May 13-15 @ LAD, 3 games July 22-24 @STL

The Outlook:

The Dodgers have averaged 93 wins the past three seasons. They’ve won the National League West in each season, as well. Our St. Louis Cardinals are the only other team to accomplish that feat over that same time frame.

Yet, the Dodgers don’t have a pennant to show for it, and even worse, they’ve had to watch their rival Giants win the World Series three times in the past five seasons.

The Dodgers decided it was time for a change. A mutual agreement between the club and former Manager Don Mattingly was reached, and both parties headed their separate directions ahead of 2016.

Mattingly decided to switch coasts, as he will take over managerial duties in Miami this year. The Dodgers will look to defend their NL West titles, and hopefully win that elusive National League pennant in the process.

Adrian Gonzalez has no doubt that the NL West title will land in LA again this year. He certainly isn’t worried about the new-look Diamondbacks. I am of the opinion that the Giants are more likely to take the division this year, but that is beside the point.

The Dodgers will miss Zach Greinke this year, and they cannot be happy with the fact that he will be pitching against them for a division rival this season. Still, LA has (arguably) the best starting pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw and a lineup with big-time potential from top to bottom.

Jan 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Kent Maeda (center) poses with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (left) at a press conference to announce the signing of the Japanese pitcher to an eight-year contract at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Kent Maeda (center) poses with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (left) at a press conference to announce the signing of the Japanese pitcher to an eight-year contract at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

While new Manager Dave Roberts coached one game for the Padres last season after Bud Black was fired, for all intensive purposes, he will be a first-time manager with the Dodgers this year.

Roberts will look to handle the always sky-high expectations in LA while molding a group of big-time personalities into one cohesive unit.

With the loss of Greinke, there will be questions pertaining to the rest of the starting rotation of the Dodgers this season. The club picked up Scott Kazmir during free agency, but after Kershaw/Kazmir at the top, there are questions abound with the rest of the Dodgers rotation.

The Dodgers hope that Hyun-Jin Ryu will be available by Opening Day as he recovers from shoulder issues. Even if we assume that Ryu is healthy and effective to start the year, the Dodgers will still by relying on the likes of Brett Anderson and Japanese import Kenta Maeda to lock down the back end of their rotation.

Anderson has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Before 2015, Anderson had failed to start at least 20 games in each season prior to his rookie campaign with Oakland in 2009. The obvious question is whether or not the Dodgers can rely on Anderson for 30 starts in 2015.

The Dodgers dipped their toes into the international free agency market this winter, signing the 27-year-old Kenta Maeda to an eight-year contract with a $25 million base salary, although incentives could push that dollar figure past the $100 million mark.

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Prior to signing with the Dodgers, Maeda turned in a 97-67 record to the tune of a 2.39 ERA in eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Central League. Fangraphs projects Maeda to throw 178 innings this year with a 3.55 ERA and a 2.7 WAR value. Those would definitely be solid numbers. Fangraphs did make a note that many scouts see Maeda as no more than a back-end of the rotation starter, citing his lack of a true out-pitch.

The Dodgers do have fall back options in arms like Alex Wood and Mike Bolsinger should any of the first five falter. Additionally, the Dodgers are expecting Brandon McCarthy back somewhere near the all-star break.

Kenley Jansen will close out ballgames once again for the Dodgers, and the rest of the bullpen figures to be solid once again in 2016. The Dodgers were eighth in baseball a year ago in bullpen WAR, when the group combined to contribute an additional 4.5 Wins Above Replacement to the club.

In all, the Dodgers’ pitching staff finished second in baseball in runs allowed in 2015 with 595 and fifth in team ERA at 3.44. They should be very happy if they are able to maintain those numbers this year.

The Dodgers should have the exact same starting eight positional players from a year ago, at least to start the season. That unit will look to improve on the 667 runs they scored in 2015 (19th in baseball).

They are going to need guys like Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig to play up to their superstar potential in 2016 if they expect to improve on their numbers from a season ago. While both guys dealt with significant injuries in 2015, they combined to slash just .259/.313/.423.

Crawford, Joc Pederson and Puig will make up the outfield. From left-to-right, the infield figures to go Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez. Yasmani Grandal will handle the catching duties.

For the first time since 2012, I think that the NL West will have a different champion when all is said and done this year. I just think that there is too much transition going on in LA, and as superstitious as it probably is, that whole “even-numbered calendar year” thing for the Giants is a big deal to me.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: San Francisco Giants

Although the Cardinals are 19-18 over the past ten seasons at Dodger Stadium, I will give the Dodgers a two of three game series win in the mid-May matchup out west. In July, the Dodgers will roll into St. Louis and try and slow down a red-hot Cardinals club with little success. I’m calling for a three-game sweep in favor of the Birds at Busch, giving St. Louis a 4-2 season series victory.

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