Now that we are at the All-Star Break, I thought that a mid-season assessment of the Los Angeles Dodgers' season is in order:
A 7-4 win over the Brewers in Milwaukee yesterday, with Orlando Hudson (who will be playing in the All-Star game in St. Louis tomorrow) hitting two home runs and Manny Ramirez going 3-for-3 with two doubles—good.
The National League's second-ranked team in batting average and ERA—very good.
A seven-game lead in the National League West over the San Francisco Giants—great.
A record of 56 wins and 32 losses, the best record in the majors—excellent.
And all of this being accomplished depite having to play 50 games without Manny, who was suspended in May for violating MLB's drug policy, going 29-21 during that span and increasing their division lead—that is absolutely amazing.
This has certainly been a team effort, as different people have stepped up to get the Dodgers to where they are right now.
Matt Kemp is currently batting .320 and has done a great job in center field—personally, I thought he should have been named to the All-Star team.
Andre Ethier has 18 home runs. And James Loney has been an absolute rock at first base, playing stellar defense and getting timely hits on a regular basis.
And let's not forget Juan Pierre, shall we? When Manny went out, all he did was bat .328 while being among the league leaders in steals. Pierre has performed beautifully; if I had to name a Dodger MVP right now, it would be him.
As for the pitching, it's been good, with Clayton Kershaw improving with every start, including getting his seventh win yesterday.
However, there are some things about this staff that concern me as the second half commences later this week...
Chad Billingsley, while being among the league leaders in strikeouts, has not won in a few weeks and has had a bit of trouble lasting past the sixth inning as of late, throwing too many pitches.
The same can be said for Randy Wolf and Hiroki Kuroda—yesterday Kuroda came in relief of Kershaw in the seventh inning and couldn't get out of the eighth, giving up two runs on three hits plus a walk. That concerns me.
And while Jonathan Broxton has 20 saves and has been good for much of this year, he has been lit up a bit lately, blowing a save with a five run lead in San Diego last week. He has a hurt toe and has pulled out of the All-Star game—that also concerns me.
In short, the Dodgers' starting rotation has been inconsistent. That may spell trouble as the season progresses into September, because as of right now, much as I hate to say it, the Giants' starters, namely Matt Cain and especially Tim Lincecum, are better than L.A.'s.
The Dodgers need to get another starting pitcher, ideally before the trade deadline on July 31.
The problem is trying to get a front line pitcher that will eat up innings without costing the team anyone significant. Toronto is listening to offers for Roy Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in baseball this year, but if the Dodgers have to give up people like Kemp, Loney, Billingsley, or Kershaw for him, then it's not worth it—L.A. needs to keep their young talent.
Hopefully Los Angeles can get another starting arm without having to give up anyone significant.
If they can't, however, then Dodger fans must have faith that the starting pitchers they have now will gain more consistency and come through.
That is certainly what I'm hoping.
As such, I am very happy that the Dodgers are where they are right now. With Manny being Manny at the plate and the youngsters continuing to improve, I am confident that they will accomplish great things in September and hopefully October.
And I hope all Dodger fans feel the same way.