Do you remember, really, how insane this season was in the Dodger outfield? Matt Kemp was the center fielder, until he wasn’t. Then Andre Ethier was, but then Scott Van Slyke was, but then Yasiel Puig was. Kemp spent weeks in left while Carl Crawford was hurt, eventually landing in right. Joc Pederson was knocking on the door. Only three starts all year came from outside that group, and one of them came on the other side of the world, when Mike Baxter started in left field in the second game in Australia. (Jamie Romak started twice in right field in June.)
It got so crazy that in late July, Brim ran down the never-ending alignments that Don Mattingly had been using in the outfield, noting at the time, there’d been 12 different groupings in the last 11 games. While it settled down as the season wore on, with Crawford/Puig/Kemp becoming the regular alignment (with Van Slyke regularly spotting for Crawford against lefties), really, very little has been answered. Pederson can’t be held down in the minors much longer. Ethier isn’t likely to accept a full-time bench role as easily as he did this year.
All of which is to say: Wow, what a mess. But that’s missing the point, somewhat, because this was a good mess. In fact, this was the best-hitting Dodger outfield in Los Angeles history. Really! In the 57 seasons since the team moved from Brooklyn, no outfield group has had a better wRC+ than this year’s 129.
That’s pretty impressive, especially considering Puig’s horrible August, Kemp’s first-half slump, and the worst year of Ethier’s career. That Puig was so good the rest of the year, and Kemp was so great in the second half, and Crawford was surprisingly useful, and Van Slyke was valuable off the bench, more than made up for it. A season that had so much endless drama shouldn’t overshadow the fact that an outfield no one wanted was really, really good. (If we’re including the Brooklyn years, this group was fifth, with the 1932 team of Lefty O’Doul, Danny Taylor and Hack Wilson leading the way.)
Obviously, we’re only talking about offense, because defensively, it’s not quite as rosy. Kemp’s butchery in center field helped drag down a mediocre defensive group to an effective tie for 10th overall, and that matters, which you’ll accept if you’ve watched any Kansas City playoff game this year.
I don’t know what the 2015 Dodgers outfield looks like. I can’t imagine it’ll be exactly the same as we saw this year, and I’m certain it won’t include Kemp in center field. Maybe, hopefully, it’ll be a little more drama-free. But will it be as productive, offensively? We should all hope so.