Newcomers Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino look to lead their new team deep into the playoffs
The Los Angeles Dodgers, in their first season under new management, find themselves in the midst of a tight playoff race with 45 games to go. With the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino at the trade deadline, the Dodgers are poised to finish the season off strong and to grab a playoff spot.
The 50-game suspension to rival San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera doesn't hurt either.
Should the Dodgers finish atop the NL West standings or in one of the two wildcard spots, do they have enough to make a deep playoff run?
Offensively, General Manager Ned Colletti has assembled a team more than capable of doing some damage come playoff time. With Victorino, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Ramirez highlighting the everyday lineup, the potential for fireworks is certainly there.
Since joining the club, Ramirez is hitting .297 with 20 RBI in 19 games, and Victorino is starting to play like the leadoff hitter the Dodgers desperately needed, with nine runs and 14 hits in his first 12 games in Dodger blue. If these two continue to produce alongside Kemp (.359, 17 HR) and Ethier (.284, 67 RBI), the Dodger offense should find themselves with plenty of opportunities to put runs on the scoreboard.
On the other side of the ball, pitching will be the key to just how far the boys in blue can push their season.
One of the club's biggest concerns coming into the season was their starting pitching behind last year's NL Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 2.88 ERA).
The rotation has been surprisingly consistent this year, currently holding the league's 2nd best ERA at 3.32. Chris Capuano currently leads the team with 11 wins and is coming off a strong eight-inning performance in Miami. Aaron Harang and recently-acquired Joe Blanton aren't putting up gaudy numbers but are capable of turning in plenty of quality starts and giving the team a chance to win.
Perhaps the biggest key to solidifying a formidable post-season rotation will be the performance of Chad Billingsley.
Since the all-star break, he has been a completely different player and perhaps the player that Dodgers fans know he has the potential to be. In his five starts since the break, he is 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA.
If the Dodgers can continue to see production out of their new and improved lineup to go along with a rotation led by a dominant Kershaw, a revitalized Billingsley and a consistent Capuano, they should be poised for a deep playoff run.