The Los Angeles Dodgers are off to a hot start in the National League West. At the beginning of the season, question marks surrounded both the starting rotation and the inexperienced bullpen. The offense that the Dodgers employ is quite deadly. Each hitter has their strengths and weaknesses.
What has made the Dodgers so successful this season compared to previous seasons? For once, the Dodgers do not have to worry about who is playing what position.
In previous seasons there were not enough positions available for the amount of players on the roster. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Manny Ramirez are locked into the starting three outfielder positions, where last year, Ethier, Kemp, and Andruw Jones were projected to be starters. Ethier has matured and blossomed into a player who the Dodgers can depend on. Ethier recently lifted the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory in the bottom of the 10th inning against the San Diego Padres.
The odd man out, Juan Pierre, is making a ton of money, but he is the Dodgers' fourth outfielder. He is a deadly weapon off the bench as both a pinch-hitter and a pinch-runner.
Both the left and right sides of the infield are set with Casey Blake taking over third base (the position that has been the black hole for the Dodgers), Rafael Furcal patrolling shortstop, and the super speedy Orlando Hudson taking over for Jeff Kent/Blake DeWitt. Loney has a few seasons underneath his belt and continues to show why he will be the Dodgers' starting first baseman for years to come.
The Dodgers' starting pitching is relatively young, with Chad Billingsley leading the staff with a 5-0 record. Behind him are Randy Wolf, Eric Stults, Clayton Kershaw, and the newly-added (former Dodger) Jeff Weaver. On the disabled list is Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers' prized free agent (before Manny showed up). Outside of Billingsley and Kuroda, this starting rotation does not seem to be as deadly as previous years. What makes this staff super effective is their ability to adapt to certain situations.
James McDonald, who started this season as a starter, faltered this past Thursday. He is more effective out of the bullpen, as his dominance was illustrated in last year's NLCS. Weaver seems to have reverted back to his old form, pitching like the old Jeff Weaver.
The bullpen is anchored this year by Jonathan Broxton, Cory Wade, Ronald Bellisario, Brent Leach, Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman, and Ramon Troncoso. Each reliever has the ability to get out of jams and bail the Dodgers out.
Troncoso has been the most impressive reliever outside of Broxton. Troncoso pitched three scoreless innings to preserve a Dodgers win and pick up a save, something that is not seen in today's game. Broxton has been lights out with seven saves, taking over for the departed Takashi Saito.
The Dodgers are a whopping 10-0 at home this season. They lead the National League West, and the closest opponent to the Dodgers is their hated rivals, the San Francisco Giants. If the Dodgers continue to win, they will break the previous record of winning consecutive home games. Here's to that perfect 23-0 record at home (for the month of May)!