The Atlanta Braves will conclude their west coast road trip this week against Matt Kemp and the Dodgers. For a club that many felt would finish in the bottom half of the NL West, Los Angeles has gotten off to a strong start with a record of 12-4. This naturally has sparked great interest in Dodgers baseball once again, but can the team sustain it?
In my opinion, no, they can not.
For one, let's take a look at their schedule thus far. They are yet to face a team with a winning record. They have faced the Padres, who might be the worst team in the game this season, seven times already (winning six), and swept a home series with the Pirates, a team expected to win no more than 70 games this season. LA squared off with the lowly Astros this past weekend winning two out of three.
A team obviously cannot control which teams appear on their schedule to begin the year, but the talk of the Dodgers being for real is a bit silly at this point. They've played one team that was at least thought to be a decent club in the Milwaukee Brewers and proceeded to lose two out of those three games.
Matt Kemp continues to be divine this season, already belting out nine homers and driving in 22 runs after just 16 games. His current triple-slash line: .450/.500/.967. Andre Ethier is healthy once again and is mashing, posting an OPS of .923 and plating 21 runs.
Second baseman Mark Ellis does an excellent job getting on base for the sluggers behind him with an OBP of .391. Catcher A.J. Ellis is off to a strong start behind the plate and at the dish with a line of .222/.404/.389. And speedy shortstop Dee Gordon can be a total pest if he gets on base, already recording eight stolen bases to this point in the young season.
The Dodgers are not slugging a ton outside of Kemp and Ethier and their current team batting average is just .222, but this team really knows how to get on base. They rank among the league's best in walk percentage and on-base percentage, which can be very problematic for the Braves in this series.
This week's matchup will be very interesting for both clubs.
Following a recent offensive outburst for the Braves, all eyes will be on their lineup to see if they can duplicate their recent success or if it was just a fluke against mediocre pitching. Folks will also be keeping an eye on Minor and Beachy with their last two starts on the mound being so excellent.
The Dodgers feature one of the best records in baseball but are yet to play any teams above .500. This will be their first test, and you can bet they're going to come out swinging and eager to prove themselves.
For more on the Braves, check out Talking Chop.