Five Reasons Why The Dodgers Will Still Win The NL West in 2010
There may be cause for panic in Tinsel Town, as the Boys in Blue are off to a rough start, but there is no need to sell the farm just yet.
The Dodgers still have a lot to live for, and a lot to look forward to.
So far, 2010 has been marked by poor defense, streaky hitting, and pitching that looks like it fell out of an ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
The Dodgers are off to an 8-13 record entering a nine game homestand.
The road has been rough on the Dodgers, but then again home still doesn't feel like home. However, fans can view the recent hardships as a circumstantial result, with those circumstances to change quickly.
There is hope Dodger fans, and here's why.
1: Manny Won't Be Hurt Forever
Yes I know it's cliche, but still, he produces.
Manny was hitting .415 with a .500 on-base percentage before going on the disabled list. The tandom of outfielders filling in for him have been dismal and make it all the more obvious the Dodgers would gladly trade up for production and deal with Manny's antics.
Reed Johnson, Garret Anderson and Xavier Paul just aren't cutting it, and it shows.
I am not the kind to believe that one player makes the team, but Ramirez certainly helps the lineup.
Garret Anderson is a potential hall-of-famer in own right, but he is hitting .135 thus far with one home run.
Johnson is a boost as a defensive outfielder, and the Dodgers need help in that category, but the concern is largely the offense as of late.
With Manny in the line-up, the team batting average was .317 while without him it is a dismal .229.
The fears of every skeptical Dodgers fan regarding the slugger are not misguided. Manny may not be finished with the DL this season. However, remember that the Dodgers still made it to the National League Championship series despite Manny missing 50 games while on suspension.
Just imagine if he stays healthy through most of the season....the Dodgers will be just fine.
2: Familiar Faces in the Bullpen
It seems so strange that a team that led the league in pitching last season can be struggling so mightily this season.
However, I asure you, it happens.
Not only are do the Dodgers have the majority of their pitching staff returning (starters aside), they also have a pitching coach that knows what he's doing, Rick Honeycutt.
Jeff Weaver is still on the disabled list and his estimated time of return is set for early May, which is right around the corner. Weaver is an innings eater, and as long as he mixes up his stuff, he is effective.
Vicente Padilla has a chance to be dominant again. He may be getting roughed up this season but nagging elbow pain may account for his ineffectiveness. His time on the DL may be just what he needs to re-center and re-dominate.
Ronald Belisario. Hong-Chih Kuo, George Sherrill, Ramon Troncoso and Jonathan Broxton are still in the Dodger's 'pen.
After rough starts, expect each of these pitchers to settle down, and repeat their performances from last season. Even greats like Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax had their stint of rough patches.
I'm not saying these pitchers belong in the same discussion with Ryan and Koufax yet, but providing perspective numbs the pain of a terrible start.
3: Gold Glovers and Silver Sluggers
Yep, the Dodgers have both in the outfield.
Matt Kemp may have been blasted recently by General Manager Ned Colletti, but I feel the comments were misguided.
Kemp may be struggling lately, but he is still an excellent defender, and covers a lot of ground in an outfield that lacks speed and agility.
Obviously when Manny is in left field, Kemp must increase his range in center. That is a lot of responsibility to hand a single player, but I think Kemp can handle it.
To his left is a solid fielder, with slightly decreased range. Andre Ethier knows the dimensions of Dodger Stadium well, and it shows with his abilities. He has a good chance to bring home hardware for his fielding as well.
A Gold Glove isn't the only hardware Kemp took home last season, he is pretty good with the stick too. Putting Kemp is the two spot in the line-up was a solid move for Joe Torre. Kemp has decent speed and solid run production.
Follow him with Ethier, and things will fall in to place eventually, just give it time.
4: Get to Work, Ned
Over the last few seasons, a key element to Dodger success has been the ability of the their GM to produce diamonds in the free-agent ruff.
Additions like Jeff Weaver, George Sherrill and even Manny Ramirez were all the work of Ned Colletti.
Dodgers fans should be delighted to know they have a General Manager that is not afraid to pull the string to make it work, now if he could only stay quiet, L.A. would be in business.
If things stay the same, and the trend of 'score with no pitching' then 'pitch with no scoring' continues, moves will be made and faith will be renewed.
There is plenty of talent in the free agent market, an unlimited resource for a team and GM looking to improve.
The only hinderance, and it's a big one, is the lack of funds at his disposal due to the ugly divorce carrying on with Dodger ownership.
Colletti's abilities may be pinched this season, but don't be surprised if moves are made in crunch time that will pay off for the Hollywood Heroes.
5: Champs by Default
The best thing the Dodgers have going for them right now is their divisional counterparts.
The Giants have re-tooled much of their roster, but nothing stands out that makes me think they will fair any better than last season.
The Padres are off to a quick start, but don't expect it to last. Adrian Gonzalez remains the sole star of the Friars, and will need more support to turn that team around. The team is eleventh in the national league in batting average, and sooner or later it will catch up to them.
The Diamondbacks still have a very young roster, and their lack of experience is still keeping them down. Their pitching is lacks a bonafied ace, and a closer that can be consistent.
The Diamondbacks are one of only three teams with a higher team ERA than the Dodgers. Without consistent pitching, the Diamondbacks will struggle.
The Rockies received a lot of attention before the start of the regular season, but there is no reason besides Ubaldo Jimenez that provides merit for all the hype.
One pitcher won't change the outcome of the season. With the departures of Yorvit Torrealba and Scott Podsednik (currently hitting .365) a big hole is created in the Colorado offense.
Pitching will have to remain stellar for the Rockies all season or it just won't come together.
The Dodgers have a mountain to climb, but the season is still very young, and quite frankly the team can only go up from here. Don't panic yet Dodgers fans, there are still many victorious Southern California sunsets to look forward to.