Los Angeles Dodgers Last Year: 84-78 1st in NL West, Lost to Philadelphia in NLCS This Year: 1st in NL West
Last year the Dodgers were a middling average team until they acquired Manny Ramirez and took off. He rejuvenated the team and the city and gave the Dodgers and exciting run that ultimately ended up a little short. After a long, withdrawn standstill Ramirez re-signed with the Dodgers and the excitement was back in Dodgerville. The question is whether they can repeat the results of last year and even get to the World Series for the first time since 1988.
Opening Day Lineup w/Projections SS Rafael Furcal .286 7 HR 47 RBI 23 SB 2B Orlando Hudson .296 10 HR 61 RBI LF Manny Ramirez .314 35 HR 118 RBI C Russell Martin .291 16 HR 94 RBI 20 SB CF Matt Kemp .303 22 HR 88 RBI 26 SB 1B James Loney .310 18 HR 88 RBI RF Andre Ethier .304 24 HR 82 RBI 3B Casey Blake .268 18 HR 73 RBI P Chad Billingsley
Rotation RHP Chad Billingsley 18-8 3.04 ERA 204 K RHP Hiroki Kuroda 13-10 4.12 ERA 110 K LHP Clayton Kershaw 14-9 3.79 ERA 193 K LHP Randy Wolf 8-11 4.76 ERA 155 K RHP Claudio Vargas 7-13 5.13 ERA 112 K
CP RHP Jonathan Broxton 2.85 ERA 39 SV 94 K
Best Case Scenario: Ramirez repeats his tear through NL pitching winning the MVP award. Kemp, Either, Loney and Russell continue their development rounding out the best lineup in the NL. Billingsley moves into the role of ace very well. Kershaw produces for a full year living up to potential. Broxton makes Dodger games 8 inning games. The back half of the rotation provides enough innings to allow the offense to win the game. This team wins the NL West and heads to the World Series before losing to the mighty AL.
Worst Case Scenario: Ramirez does not feel like playing this year or his age catches up to him. Hudson and Furcal can't stay healthy leaving a hole in the middle of the infield. Kershaw is not ready and spends time in AAA. The back of the rotation is a disaster and no one can keep an ERA under 5. The bullpen can not get the lead to Broxton. This team finishes 2nd in the NL West.
Player Most Important to Success: Clayton Kershaw. Much was made of Ramirez in the offseason which overshadowed the departure of Brad Penny and Derek Lowe. This leaves the Dodgers very vulnerable in the rotation. Kershaw has the potential to make the Dodger fans forget all about them. Last year he was called up from AA with a Vin Scully slobbering all over him and he did not disappoint. In 21 starts he went 5-5 4.26 ERA and 100 K's in 107 IP. With a year under his belt he is being counted on to improve on those numbers. He just turned 21 on March 19 and has the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. If he can become an All-Star type pitcher he will give the Dodgers a 1-2 punch with Kuroda a decent third option. That should be enough pitching to win the division. If he falters this team will be in a dogfight all season trying to outscore opponents.
Outlook: This team has the most complete lineup in the National League. It is obvious by the fact that Casey Blake is batting 8th. There is not a weak link in that lineup except for the pitcher spot. Teams will be forced to pitch to Manny all summer because he is surrounded by players who can hit for average and have good speed. Loney, Kemp and Either are all big time breakout candidates. The thing that is stopping this team from walking into the World Series and division title is the pitching. The departure of Penny and Lowe will be felt. Having the back end of a rotation of Randy Wolf and Claudio Vargas is not an exciting prospect for any GM. That said if the Manny takeover of LA continues again this year there will be meaningful baseball in October again in Dodger Stadium.