Dodgers Bullpen Keeps L.A. Afloat in Division

Micah SecorCorrespondent IJune 19, 2008

Sitting at four games under .500, the Dodgers have been subpar this year, to say the least.

But in the weak NL West, they still hold second place behind a struggling Diamondbacks team that started the season with an excellent, 20-8 record, only to go 19-26 for the last month and a half.

The Dodgers have every opportunity to win the division this year. But it won't be easy, by any means.

The signings of Jason Schmidt and Andruw Jones have been a complete disaster. They are making $15 million apiece this year. All Schmidt has done for the Dodgers is post a lousy 6.30 ERA and record only ONE win in his tenure. He has yet to pitch for the team this year due to shoulder surgery in March. Jones, on the other hand...well, let's just be glad that he's injured as well.

Offensive catalyst Rafael Furcal is sidelined with a bulging disc in his back until past the All-Star break and the team lacks a consistent power hitter. Youngsters James Loney, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier have combined for only 27 home runs this year, five more than individual league-leader Chase Utley.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jeff Kent is off to a sluggish start, batting under .250. On top of that, Nomar Garciaparra is injured (what's new?) and rookie pitcher Hiroki Kuroda just hit the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.

But, despite these setbacks, the Dodgers have a fighting chance. They have quality pitching that combines for an ERA under 3.90 and good speed on the bases.

But what really stands out is the bullpen, which is the reason why the Dodgers remain competitive. With a corps that consists of Joe Beimel, Corey Wade, Hong Chi-Kuo, Chan Ho Park, Jonathan Broxton, and All-Star closer Takashi Saito, their ERA combines at 1.88. That is an excellent average for all six of those relievers to be producing, and that is why the Dodgers can win this division.

If the bats can wake up and put some runs on the board, look out. They went 4-10 to begin the month of June, but have won their last three. If the team can consistently hand the bullpen a lead in the sixth or seventh inning, the Dodgers can win this Division easy.

There is no guarantee, though, because that is a very big if.