Expectations were high as the Dodgers reported to Spring Training this past spring. The team was loaded in young talent, and the pitching staff seemed to be among the strongest in the league.
Eighty games into the season, similar things are being said. The Dodgers have a lot of young talent, and a very solid pitching staff.
The only problem is that they're 37-42. The poor start for the Dodgers is somewhat mystifying on the surface.
The obvious cause for the problems is their lack of power, which has definitely had an impact. LA is last in the league in both extra base hits and home runs.
However, things are looking up in Dodgertown. Dynamic leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal is nearing a return after missing 45+ games.
The youngsters have started to hit more consistently, especially James Loney and Russell Martin. And finally, this team is simply too talented to keep losing.
With the NL West in a down-year, look for the Dodgers to overcome their issues and claim the division title.
Coming into the season, Andrew Jones and Rafael Furcal were supposed to be the veteran leaders of this young team.
However, the two have missed a combined 75+ games due to injury, and before going down, Jones was hitting a sizzling .176 with two HR's and six RBI's.
Injuries also derailed 3B's Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche.
With so many veterans disabled, the Dodgers have been hard pressed to score runs.
There have been bright spots, however. One is the continued progression of All Star catcher Russell Martin. Martin, still only 25, is hitting .315 with eight HR's and 37 RBI's.
1B James Loney has also had a solid year, hitting over .300 with seven HR's. Matt Kemp, Blake Dewitt, and Andre Ethier have all showed glimpses of the future.
Overall, the year has been a disappointment for the Dodgers offense, but the future looks bright.
As expected, the pitching staff has kept the Dodgers afloat. Some of the key contributors, however, have been extremely unexpected.
Expected ace Brad Penny was 5-9 with an ERA around six before shoulder stiffness pushed him to the DL. Middle reliever Scott Procter had struggled all year before being pushed to the DL himself.
Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda was pitching well before he too landed on the DL.
In their place, the Dodgers staff has been anchored by Chan Ho Park, Corey Wade, and Eric Stults. Who?
Park, after nearly seven years of mediocrity, has rediscovered himself in LA. In three starts, Park is 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA; he has a 2.52 ERA overall.
Wade is a rookie called straight from Double-A; he has an ERA of 2.5 in over 20 appearances, and has been the most consistent reliever this year.
Stults, another rookie, has made two starts, is 2-0, and has an ERA of .60. In his most recent start, he threw a four-hit shutout against the division leading White Sox.
Chad Billingsly, Derek Lowe, and Takashi Saito have been not as good as hoped, but still solid. Same goes for Jonathan Broxton.
The Dodgers staff is hitting it's stride. If Kuroda and Penny come back healthy, Torre will have that good old problem of too many worthy starters.
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