8 Los Angeles Dodgers Who Need to Have a Huge Week

Richard Leivenberg@@richiemarketingContributor IIIAugust 12, 2012

8 Los Angeles Dodgers Who Need to Have a Huge Week

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    As the Los Angeles Dodgers enter the last phase of their up-and-down season, they need to step it up, put some pressure not only on the division-leading San Francisco Giants, but on themselves.

    Dodger management has made a commitment to win with the major acquisition of Hanley Ramirez, and now that Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are healthy, these three offensive threats should be able to power the Dodgers to the fore.

    Couple that with the continually great pitching efforts of Clayton Kershaw, the team seems poised for greatness.

    This week, as they face the rising tide of two excellent teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, they will have to prove themselves worthy of the recent hype.

    But a team is more than a few players, and some guys have to really play better, even great, for the Dodgers to make a statement.

    We can pretty much count on Kemp and Kershaw to continue to excel, but what about the rest of the team?

Joe Blanton

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    Joe Blanton has sort of a scatter-gun career to date.

    He won a World Series game with the Phillies in 2008 but he does not engender too much confidence and in fact has somewhat of a reputation as a "home run" pitcher.

    But, he does burn innings as he is a workhorse on the mound, and that can be helpful.

    Ultimately, though, he has to get his ERA down to be a true Dodger pitcher. His lifetime ERA is 4.37 and with the Dodgers so far he is at 4.91.

    In a game against the Marlins on Saturday, he was doing just fine before giving up four runs in an inning.  It almost looked as if he was pitching batting practice.

    The Dodgers, even with their triumvirate of Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez, are not going to score a ton of runs per game so they need guys who will keep the score down.

    Blanton has to bounce back this week with a win.

Chris Capuano

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    Chris Capuano has had a great year to date.  In fact, he had an amazing first half.

    His 2.75 ERA was almost 1.5 runs below his career average and he had 10 wins on a team with very little run production.

    But Capuano may be returning to form having lost his last three games while giving up 11 runs in the process.

    The Duke graduate with the academic pedigree has to get smarter on the mound or at least rediscover what he had going in April and May.

    He can start by winning this week.

Aaron Harang

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    For the Dodgers, it really does come down to pitching.  Dodger Stadium is a tough ballpark to hit home runs in, and if the pitchers follow form, keep run production down and guys off the bases, they will more than likely win.

    That may sound obvious, but guys like Aaron Harang, a newcomer to the Dodgers, can't seem to turn the idea into a reality.

    It's funny how guys live up or down to their stats.  Harang is a career .500 pitcher with 102 wins and 101 losses.

    With the Dodgers he is 7-7 with an ERA of 3.80, but he has also given up 12 homers, second most on the team.

    At times he has been stellar, almost breaking a record earlier in the year when he stuck out 10 consecutive batters in a game against the Padres.

    Dodger pitchers cannot relax just because they have some new batting talent.  Harang has to step it up going forward.

Chad Billingsley

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    Chad Billingsley can be as dominating as any pitcher in the game when his game is on.

    Yet, he has had his typical roller-coaster season and every time he takes the mound, the fans and probably his teammates hold their collective breaths.

    After losing five straight games in June, he bounced back and has won four in a row giving up only 10 runs in the process.

    Billingsley knows how to win and is showing it now.

    A bit of a head case who seems to get down on himself when things get tough, he has to show his mettle going forward.  He should be the number two pitcher in the rotation as the Dodgers head toward the finish line.

    He can prove himself and regain his team's confidence by winning again this week.

Andre Ethier

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    Andre Ethier signed a five-year, $85 million contract extension and forgot how to hit home runs.

    In the beginning of the season, he and Matt Kemp were one-two in RBI and Ethier was on his way to a 30-homer run season.

    As of today, he has 11 home runs and 64 RBI, nowhere near the 80 RBI of Carlos Beltran on the Cardinals.

    He's had three RBI in the last 10 games and his hits seem to be relegated to slap shots over second base.

    One would think a guy sandwiched between Kemp and Ramirez would be champing at the bit. OK, so he has always hit poorly against left-handed pitching.  For $85 million, he should learn to hit dingers off of them too.

    Forget about the money for a second.  Let's just put this week as a target for Andre to whack a few balls out of the park.

    That is what the Dodgers need and it is definitely what he needs.

Mark Ellis

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    Mark Ellis, the Dodgers second baseman, has the chance of a lifetime.

    He bats second behind Shane Victorino and is the setup guy for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez.

    Ellis possesses the experience and the guile and even the bat control to make things happen in this position.

    In the last 10 games, his average has jumped 10 points to a nifty .282, a great average for a guy in the second spot.

    The Dodgers hope he is a .300 hitter and has the ability to shuffle Victorino from first to third on grounders through the right side.

    Those kinds of hits will be extremely important against the Pirates' and Braves' pitching this week.

James Loney

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    James Loney dove to his left, flagged down a sharp liner that was headed for right field, fell on his butt and then somehow shuffled the ball to Joe Blanton who tagged first base ahead of the runner.

    It was the kind of defense Loney has become known for and it definitely saved a run.

    But saving runs is not what the Dodgers need from Loney.  They need him to create runs and Saturday was a prime example of how far Loney has fallen in that category.

    With the bases loaded and two outs, he worked the count to 2-2 only to hit a soft fly ball to center for the final out.

    This is the kind of season he has been having but if anyone has to step up to the plate and bang in some runs, knock some balls over the fence and make some noise with his bat, it is Loney.

    Who knows how much more time he has in a Dodger uniform, but he can start things in the right direction this week with some timely hitting.

Hanley Ramirez

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    Hanley Ramirez has already given the Dodgers some bang for their bucks.

    In 15 games, he has 15 RBI.

    He is playing shortstop, his natural position.

    He has solidified the Dodger middle of the order.

    He brings some swagger and some youth to the team, not to mention star power.

    OK, so he didn't run out a grounder to shortstop that he thought was an easy force out at second and almost got caught at first base.  That is the Hanley the Marlins fans hated.

    It may be worrisome, but between Kemp and Mattingly telling him that is not the Dodger way, he should be fine.

    Of more concern is his ability to stay "up" and keep up the good, clutch hitting.

    If he does that this week, watch out San Francisco!