2009 has been the best season Los Angeles Dodgers fans have seen in many years, and fans are patiently waiting to see if this could be the year they win their first World Series since 1988.
It has been 21 years since the Dodgers have last won the World Series and this current team looks promising, but do the Dodgers have all the pieces in place needed to break their Championship drought?
It's hard to criticize the best team in baseball, but here are some things Joe Torre should be concerned about:
The first issue, is with the starting pitching. The rotation is only solid, not spectacular.
Clayton Kershaw (8-5) is coming into his own as a great pitcher with a very respectable 2.76 ERA, but he is still developing and has not proved himself in the playoffs.
Both Randy Wolf (5-6) and Hiroki Kuroda (3-5) have been solid contributors with fairly good statistics, despite their few number of wins due to the injury of Kuroda and the misfortune of the Dodgers' offense not hitting when Wolf pitches.
Chad Billingsley (11-6, 3.82 ERA) has had a great year, but has struggled as of late, opening up many questions about what is wrong with him.
The good news is Billingsley had a very strong outing against Atlanta, only allowing two hits and no runs in five innings, but the bad news is he tweaked his hamstring which hopefully will not change his delivery.
The new kid on the block, Jason Schmidt, has had a couple of good games, including two quick wins, combined with one bad loss. Torre should still be concerned with what he will continue to get out of Schmidt, but at least he is picking up some innings and picking up wins.
In short, the Dodgers do not have a consistent ace with playoff experience.
They wanted to pick up a true ace, with Kershaw as an excellent No. 2 pitcher, before the trade deadline, but the Phillies took Cliff Lee and it looks like Roy Halladay was not even close to being traded. Not having an ace and a really good No. 2 man usually does not bode well in the playoffs, but a good offense can overcome that.
With that, we come to the offense.
This lineup is a tough group for pitchers to face because they get on base a lot, but the problem is those runners have not been scoring lately, a trend that hopefully will not carry into the playoffs. The Dodgers need more clutch hitting when men are on base, which would then translate into more runs, to help overcome any pitching deficiency they might have.
With Russell Martin’s bat heating up in the second half, there are not many holes in this lineup, but a problem is the shortage of home runs being hit by the team.
Manny Ramirez has struggled lately, and has not used the home run ball to score runs. When Manny is not hitting home runs, Los Angeles is left with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to provide the pop.
Kemp has hit 14 home runs and Ethier has knocked 22 over the fence, neither numbers are too shabby, but most World Series teams have had somebody who hit a lot more home runs than that.
That is where Manny comes into play. More than likely, Manny will be Manny and start hitting when the playoffs come, but if he continues to struggle, it could spell disaster for the Dodgers.
The relief pitchers have been a concern all year because of the amount of innings they throw. Many analysts believe they will be overworked before the playoffs, but I believe they will be fine.
They have added a very good setup man, George Sherrill, to a bullpen that already has great arms in it. He can also be a closer, which will take some pressure off of Broxton when his toe is bothering him. In addition, it will take innings off of other relievers, and in the playoffs the fifth starter, presumably Schmidt, can move into the bullpen if needed.
The end of July and the first part of August have been rough for the Dodgers making the kinks in the armor more apparent.
This can be a blessing in disguise because Torre will have time to fix the rotation, change the lineup, and rest the bullpen to get ready for the playoffs. Furthermore, Ned Colletti, the Dodgers GM, may be able to pick up another pitcher through waivers to further bolster the bullpen.
In short, the Dodgers have a huge opportunity to end a World Series drought this year, but they must find a way to mend the kinks in their armor.