The Los Angeles Dodgers have jumped out to a great start this season. Although the club just wrapped up a losing series against the Atlanta Braves, they are sitting atop the National League West with 13-6 record.
Two of the key components to their success has been the early production of both Chad Billingsley and Andre Ethier.
Billingsley is coming off of a horrendous start in Houston. He allowed nine runs (five earned), walked four and threw 72 pitches in just 3 1/3 innings.
Prior to the pitfall against the Astros, "Bills" was holding a 2-0 record complemented by a 1.33 ERA. That ERA now sits at 3.04.
Dodger fans have never been completely sold on Billingsley. He has pitched for the Dodgers since 2006 and it seems to be one mediocre year after another.
Chad's best year came in 2008 when he compiled a 16-10 record with 201 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.14. Even that season consisted of a slump in which he lost four consecutive decisions.
The game in Houston wasn't even completed before Dodger fans started to collectively say, "Here we go again." Billingsley has always been a streaky pitcher and this season will be no different.
Which is more likely for 2012?
Expect another 12-10 season with an ERA around 4.00 from Billingsley this year.
On the offensive side, there is another player besides Matt Kemp who has played a large role in the Dodgers winning 13 of their first 19 games. With his 22 RBI, Ethier is showing signs of the player he was in 2009.
After two average years in which fans have questioned Ethier's health and commitment to Los Angeles, he seems to have turned a corner and is playing the way fans know he can.
The people around Dodgertown want to know: can he sustain this type of production?
Much like Billingsley, Ethier is incredibly streaky and most believe he will slow down and turn in another .270 / 20 / 80 season.
I project him to have more of a .290 / 20 / 100 year. This is due to the fact he is playing for a new contract and he has Matt Kemp hitting ahead of him.
As the season progresses, Kemp is going to start getting the Barry Bonds treatment (circa 2004). With teams intentionally walking Kemp, they aren't going to want to waste any time in going after Ethier. This should result in Ethier seeing better pitches. He will already have Kemp on base to knock in, resulting in more RBI.
The majority of the country is not yet sold on the Dodgers. Yes, they have an early 3 1/2 game lead in their division, but there are also 143 games yet to play.
For the Dodgers to succeed, Billingsley and Ethier don't have to have MVP caliber seasons, but they most certainly need to be more consistent than they have been over the last few years.