Like many people after Manny Ramirez was suspended for a violation of the Major League Baseball substance abuse policy, I thought the Dodgers were going to go downhill in historic fashion.
That obviously didn't happen.
The Dodgers have the fourth-best batting average (.278) and the best on-base percentage of any team in baseball (.357).
In addition to these fantastic offensive statistics, the Dodgers are leading the majors in ERA (3.64).
The Dodgers are not only first in both on-base percentage and ERA, but they're the only team in top five in both of these stats in the Majors. Meaning not only are they pitching well, but they wear out opposing pitchers by making them face more batters and are very efficient at the plate.
They lack some style points, being 27th in the majors in HRs with only 53 (less then half of the Yankees' MLB-leading 107 HRs), but what they lack in style they make up for in substance.
One of the big reasons behind their success has been Manny's replacement, Juan Pierre, who's had the eigth-best batting average in the majors (.327) and has arguably played better defense.
A better back-up than Pierre probably doesn't exist anywhere in the majors.
He's a career .300 hitter who in 2007 had the lowest strikeout percentage in the NL (5.5 percent), finished second in the league in stolen bases with 64, and fourth in hits with 196
Pierre was first replaced as a starter in the 2008 season by Andruw Jones. Jones, as most of the Dodgers faithful will remember, ended up being a disaster as he finished the season batting only .158 while hitting only three HRs.
The contributions of Matt Kemp, Orlando Hudson, Brad Ausmus or Casey Blake have also been fantastic, all batting over .300 this year. James Loney also has been spectacular with RISP leading the team in RBIs (49) and batting a respectable .283.
On the pitching side, Chad Billingsley has really been fantastic with a 2.83 ERA and a record of 9-3. Randy Wolf (ERA 3.64) and Clayton Kershaw (ERA 3.76) have also pitched well both having ERAs below four.
Jonathon Broxton has also really come alive this year as the closer, posting his best ERA ever (2.27), six wins, no oses and converting 18 out of 20 save opportunities.
While he isn't always as effective when he pitches two days in a row, he commands the best hard sinker in baseball when he hits the upper 90s, and is definitely one of MLB's elite closers this year.
It's not even mid-season yet and the Dodgers already look like a lock to make the playoffs with a 7.- game lead in the division (biggest lead in baseball).
Anything can happen in the playoffs, but right now the Dodgers definitely have the look of a champion and are certainly, for today, the best team in baseball.
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