How the Los Angeles Dodgers Can Dominate the Second Half
Whether it was Rafael Furcal's sizzling bat, Jonathon Broxton's overpowering pitching, or Andre Ethier's clutch hitting, the boys in blue performed exceptionally throughout the first half of their season.
However, numerous injuries and continual struggles within the pitching staff have obstructed their consistency.
It's difficult to determine whether the buzz generated about their chances to contend in the NL are too hasty or totally warranted.
A multitude of factors will contribute to the Dodgers' goals ultimately coming to fruition.
Batting .333 with six home runs and 35 RBI, Rafael Furcal is the ideal lead-off man, captain of the infield, and intimidating presence for the Dodgers.
If Rafael Furcal can maintain his health, the Dodgers will have a powerful advantage.
It's not his agility, his speed, his range, his bat, or his field vision that distinguishes him from his peers, but instead the fusion of all of his talents that makes him such a threat.
Just today, Furcal was chosen to replace the Mets' shortstop, Jose Reyes, for the All-Star game; a recognition he undoubtedly earned, but must live up to in the second half of the season.
All-Stars need to continue to perform at the highest level
Outfielder Andre Ethier and pitcher Jonathon Broxton have been on a tear in the 2010 season and deservedly will play in the All-Star game Tuesday, July 13, 2010, in Anaheim, CA.
Ethier was at or near the top of the NL leader lists for all three Triple Crown categories—batting average, home runs, and RBI—for the first six weeks of the season. However, an accident in batting practice landed him on the 15-day disabled list.
But Ethier has gradually returned, recovered, and been revitalized, batting .324 with 14 home runs, and 54 RBI.
In Jonathon Broxton's 38 innings pitched, he has struck out 55 batters, recorded 19 saves, and has a 2.11 ERA.
Though he started slowly this season—carding just one save in the Dodgers' first 28 games—Broxton has revealed his overpowering speed, control, and stamina as the Dodgers go-to closer.
It is absolutely essential that both Ethier and Broxton sustain their stellar play and act as leaders for the rest of the team.
Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Russell Martin need to step it up
Loney: Sure, when you think about first baseman, it's nearly impossible not to think Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, and Joey Votto.
But James Loney has the potential to become one of the elite first basemen in professional baseball.
His .305 BA and five home runs are decent, but his 59 RBI illuminate Loney's capacity to swing the bat with force and at the right time. Loney's consistency is crucial to the Dodgers success.
Kemp: Though Matt Kemp has 16 home-runs and 50 RBI, he has struck out 97 times so far this season. Kemp is obviously aggressive at the plate, but if he can train his eye to select the right pitches to be aggressive with, he will become a threat each time he steps up to the plate.
Martin: Russell Martin is another example of a Dodger who has struggled over the course of this season due to injuries and, consequently, inconsistency.
Though Martin has brute force at the plate, he has only produced five home runs and 22 RBI, which is mediocre for a player of his capacity. Defensively, Martin has the potential to be one of the best catchers in the league, but his injuries have made him appear "sluggish," as manager Joe Torre recently commented.
Hopefully the All-Star break will benefit his recovery and he will return in the second half as one of the Dodgers offensive and defensive leaders.
Manny Ramirez needs to find his swing
Does anyone else cringe when the ball is hit to Manny in right field?
Defensively, he's not much of a star or model for emulation.
But, there's no doubting that his swing is unrivaled in power and precision. Ramirez has unbelievably quick hands, incredible pitch recognition, and when he fully turns his lower-half into the ball, he strikes it with an almost violent force.
However, Dodger fans have suffered unceasing frustration as Ramirez has been struck by injury (allowing him to play only 59 games thus season) and only hit eight home runs, with 39 RBI this season.
There used to be a palpable, roaring presence that permeated the stadium when Manny approached the plate. The pitcher would tense up, outfielders would take steps back toward the warning track, and young kids in the bleachers would slide their gloves on in anticipation of a bomb.
Ramirez needs to be smart about getting healthy and gradually return to his old self because he is far too talented to not shine among the league's best.
Pitching: The Dodgers Achilles Heel that must subside
It's as simple as this: Either the Dodgers organization needs to lure in new, effective pitchers, or the current pitching staff needs to come through.
The Dodgers pitching has been wrought with inconsistency and critics have been quick to blame their inadequacy for the Dodgers No.3 ranking in the NL West; one game behind the Colorado Rockies and two games behind the San Diego Padres.
While some pitchers have been plagued by health issues, like Chad Billingsley (7-4), and others by lack of experience, like John Ely (4-7), the pitching staff has been neither effective nor reliable this season.
But this is not just about starters.
Only Hong-Chih Kuo has pitched well this season (recently chosen to replace Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves in the All-Star game), while relievers like Carlos Monasterios, George Sherill, and Jeff Weaver have underachieved and ruined far too many possible Dodger victories.
Whether it's an attitude adjustment or mechanics reconstruction, the pitchers of the Los Angeles Dodgers have the capacity to make or break the second half of their team's season.
It's about winning series and gaining momentum
The Dodgers will lose games—that's an undeniable part of the sport.
But, if the Dodgers can learn to cultivate their strengths and use the momentum of winning series to their advantage, there will an overall surge in the team's attitude and presence among the league.
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