Time to panic for Dodgers, Angels, Jays?
By Jeff Saukaitis, Contributing MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's much easier to build a winning baseball team when you have a huge payroll at your disposal.
Still, money can't buy everything. It can't buy chemistry. It can't buy immunity to significant injuries.
Those are just some of the reasons the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays are off to extremely slow starts this season. While a number of major-league teams are underperforming relative to their expectations, those three clubs stand out as colossal disappointments.
Let's examine the three and try to predict what the rest of 2013 holds for them.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (15-22): The biggest payroll in the major leagues hasn't prevented the Dodgers from dropping into the National League West basement.
How many times has it been said that a team could never have too much pitching? The 2013 Dodgers have delivered the best evidence yet to prove that statement true.
Going into spring training, the Dodgers had eight solid starting pitching options, including former Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and former World Series Most Valuable Player Josh Beckett. They also had South Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.
With such depth in the rotation, how could anything go wrong? Greinke suffered a broken collarbone when San Diego's Carlos Quentin charged the mound after being hit by a pitch on April 11. He should be back soon.
Billingsley, who tried during the offseason to avoid Tommy John surgery, broke down after just two starts and had to undergo the surgery anyway. He's out for the year.
Perennially injured Lilly predictably is hurt again. This time, it's his rib cage, but he might return soon. Capuano is back in the rotation now, but he had spent time on the disabled list with a strained calf.
It would have been nice to be able to turn to the veteran Harang after all these pitchers had gone down, but the Dodgers traded him on April 6 before any of the other injuries had hit the pitching staff. The Dodgers have already used nine different starting pitchers this year.
Offensively, the Dodgers have struggled mightily. It hasn't helped that two separate DL stints have limited shortstop Hanley Ramirez to just four games. He is expected to remain sidelined until mid-June with a hamstring injury.
Matt Kemp, the team's best all-around hitter, has just one home run in his first 141 at-bats. The team also has gotten a sub-.200 average and virtually no run production from the third base position.
As a result, the Dodgers rank 14th in the NL in runs scored with 129. Only the Miami Marlins, who have the NL's lowest payroll, have scored fewer runs.
It's hard to imagine getting less "bang for the buck" than the Dodgers have. Their saving grace is that first-place San Francisco hasn't opened up a huge lead in the division, leaving the disappointing Dodgers 7 1/2 games behind - not a great position, but not an insurmountable deficit, either.
Even when everyone is healthy, though, the L.A. offense has some holes in it, and this team just seems devoid of chemistry. The best bet is the Dodgers won't finish much better than .500.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (14-24): A case could be made by the end of last regular season that the Angels were the best team in baseball.
They boasted a dangerous offense that featured American League Rookie of the Year Mike Trout and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols as well as Torii Hunter and Mike Trumbo. They had a pitching staff that featured C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and trade-deadline acquisition Greinke.
Still, somehow, the 2012 Angels started the season 6-14 and ended April at 8-15, nine games out of first place in the AL West. They never fully recovered, as their final 89-73 record left them just on the outside looking in during the playoffs.
In the offseason, the Angels lost Hunter to the Detroit Tigers but replaced him with an even bigger bat - free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. They lost starting pitchers Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and Greinke, but replaced them with Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas.
It was a pitching downgrade to a degree, but the thought was that Los Angeles' offense would improve enough to become possibly the most potent in the majors. The bullpen also was theoretically strengthened with the addition of free-agent closer Ryan Madson.
A balky elbow has prevented Madson from making his Angels debut, although he is expected back soon, possibly this week.
The pitching drop-off has been worse than expected; the Angels rank 13th in the AL in team ERA (4.73). Offensively, the star-studded lineup ranks just 10th in the AL with 156 runs scored.
Weaver went down with a fractured left elbow in his second start, but he should be back later this month. Otherwise, the biggest problem with the team's pitching has been Blanton's struggles. In his first eight starts, he's 0-7 with a 6.46 ERA.
Offensively, Pujols (.234, 5 HR, 21 RBI) is off to a slow start for the second consecutive year. Prized newcomer Hamilton (.212, 4 HR, 11 RBI) has been even less productive. Los Angeles is a terrible 7-15 against AL West teams.
One would have to expect the likes of Pujols and Hamilton to eventually produce. When Weaver and Madson return, that should greatly enhance the pitching.
However, the Angels would have to go 76-48 the rest of the way just to get to 90 wins, and 90 wins are no guarantee to qualify for the playoffs in a loaded AL. Expect another second-half bounceback, but not a big enough one to get the Angels into the postseason.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS (15-24): The Blue Jays went just 73-89 last year, but they were considered by many to be the favorite to win the AL East this year because of a busy offseason that brought numerous stars to Toronto.
The Blue Jays were in dire need of pitching, so trades brought in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle from Miami and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets.
Toronto needed a dynamic leadoff hitter, so shortstop Jose Reyes came aboard in the trade with Miami.
Reyes was off to a great start, hitting .395 through his first 38 at-bats, but then he suffered an ankle injury which will likely sideline him into June.
Pitching has been a bigger disappointment. Dickey (2-5, 5.06 ERA) has badly underperformed, and Buehrle (1-2, 6.19 ERA) has been even worse. Johnson was 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA in four starts before heading to the DL with a triceps injury. He is expected back by late this month or early June, but the early season DL stint was just further reminder that he is always an injury risk.
Toronto tried to become a contender overnight, but it instead became the latest organization to demonstrate that building a winner usually takes more than just throwing together a bunch of all-stars. Chemistry is usually a factor and it seems to be missing in Toronto.
The biggest disappointment, though, was that the investment in Dickey, Johnson and Buehrle hasn't even improved what was a dreadful pitching staff. The Jays' 4.74 team ERA is next-to-last in the AL, better only than that of rebuilding Houston.
The Jays' pitching can't help but improve the rest of the way, and that will make Toronto more competitive. Any chance of winning a deep AL East, however, has been lost already.
05/14 11:11:25 ET