The 2009 season for the Dodgers began with high hopes and expectations. After sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the 2008 NLDS and playing in the NLCS for the first time since 1988, the Dodgers gave hopes to their fans for the first time in a generation.
However, as the season went on, this Dodger team seemed destined for a first round sweep.
The Dodgers went off on a torrid start, and even after losing Manny Ramirez to a 50-game suspension, the Dodgers maintained their comfortable lead in the NL West.
However, after the All-Star break, the Dodgers have been inconsistent at best, and saying that the team is limping into the postseason is a gross understatement.
Now the Dodgers can't clinch the NL West to save their lives since the Colorado Rockies can't seem to lose and the Dodgers can't win what should be tune-up games.
While the Dodgers will make the playoffs, I have a terrible feeling they will get swept like the Cubs did last season. I hope I am wrong because I do bleed blue, but let's face facts: This is a different Dodger team than the one that played in April, May, and June. A lot of things are not right.
No one in the lineup has been hitting well. Only recently has Rafael Furcal turned around his season-long underachieving performance. Russell Martin looks outmatched and has so all season.
Manny Ramirez is hitting under .300 and just looks late on every fastball. Matt Kemp has cooled off considerably since his torrid August. Andre Ethier? He runs hot and cold and now has been cold for a few weeks. When he will get hot again is anyone's guess.
James Loney looked great at the beginning of the month, but that was the beginning of the month. He is still a GIDP waiting to happen every time there is a man on first. Casey Blake has been hindered by a sore hamstring. The best hitter this month has been Ronnie Belliard, and now he is hurting with a sore hamstring.
At the beginning of the season, this Dodger team could score with anyone. Now, if they face even above average pitching, scoring just one run (like tonight against the Padres, who started Cesar Ramos) seems like a chore.
This Dodger team scores 10 runs in one game and then struggle to score one the next. There is no consistency.
It also seems that the entire lineup is waiting for Ramirez to catch fire, which he might not do for the rest of the season.
Against great pitchers like Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Chris Carpenter, or Adam Wainwright, this lineup would struggle to score a couple of runs. This would not be a problem if the Dodgers had their traditionally strong starting pitching, which they do not.
The starting pitching
The starting pitching at the beginning of the season was a strength of the team. Chad Billingsley was arguably the best pitcher through the first two months of the season. Since the All-Star Break, Billingsley has looked lost, frustrated, and just plain unlucky.
Against the Nationals, Bills gave up just one hit in six innings but got nothing. Today against the Padres, he gave up two hits and two runs in six innings again and took the loss. So even when he has looked sharp, Bills has still lost.
The best pitcher in the rotation has been Randy Wolf. Who saw that coming? Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla both have done adequate jobs since coming to the team at the end of August, but can both of them be trusted to win a playoff game? Garland does have the track record since he did win in the World Series in 2005, but what about Padilla?
Clayton Kershaw has looked unstoppable but also been troubled by walks. Kershaw is just 21, and the Dodgers will want to protect him as much as possible, but will he be given a chance to start a postseason game? I think he should, but on a very short leash.
Hiroki Kuroda has looked good in stretches, but he has not been consistent enough to be deemed trustworthy. Also, has he gotten over the scary moment in Arizona? Remember, Kuroda was the only Dodger pitcher to beat the Phillies in last season's NLCS.
What I think is the strength of the team has shown some weaknesses lately. Jonathan Broxton blew a three-run lead against the Pirates. Mind you, Furcal and Ethier had hands in the loss, but come on! This was against the Pirates!
George Sherrill has been very good, but there's something about him I just don't like. I don't know if it is because he does not have swing and miss stuff like Broxton has or if it's because Sherrill works so slowly while on the mound. I don't know what it is, but you can't argue with the numbers.
Ramon Troncoso looked sharp in the early part of the season, but now it seems the overload has caught up. Joe Torre loves to work the bullpen, and the Dodgers this season have been no exception.
Did the work overload finally catch up with the Dodgers? Will Ronald Belisario, Hong-Chih Kuo, and others have enough in the tank for one more month? I for the first time this season have doubts.
The more I watch, the more I think this Dodger team is destined to get swept by Philly in the first round playoffs. No one in the lineup is hitting, the starting pitching outside of Wolf I wouldn't trust against a high school team, and the one thing I thought the Dodgers had, a bullpen, is showing signs of wear and tear.
I believe Torre ran the bullpen into the ground all season and it will cost the Dodgers dearly in the playoffs. This is the Dodgers' best chance to win the pennant given how good the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rockies will be next season. I hope I am dead wrong, but the Dodgers have not hit good pitching all season. Please let me be wrong about this.