Back-to-Work Blues: Five Reasons Dodgers Fans Shouldn't Panic Just Yet
Getting swept by the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium wasn't exactly the Los Angeles Dodgers' idea of a good start to the second half of the 2010 season.
After a relaxing three day break and a dropped four game series upon returning back to work, the Dodgers find themselves in fourth place in the NL West and 5.5 games behind the division-leading San Diego Padres.
Blame it on the humidity, the starting pitching, the bullpen, the lack of offense, the injuries, or questionable substitutions—the reality is that these four games are in the history books, and the beginning to the second stanza of play cannot be changed.
However, despite their record in the standings, there's no reason for folks in Dodgertown to panic just yet. There's still 70 games remaining on the schedule, and the Dodgers are quite capable of making a strong run down the stretch.
The following slides highlight five reasons why the Los Angeles Dodgers should still be considered strong contenders in the second half of the 2010 campaign.
Although the Dodgers' second half schedule is among the League's most difficult in terms of opponent's win-loss records, Los Angeles seems to thrive in head-to-head action in games against their NL West foes.
Forty-three of the remaining 74 games will be played against teams from the NL West, and so far this season the Dodgers boast a 23-6 record versus their intra-division rivals. Closing out the regular season in September and October, Los Angeles will face NL West opponents in 24 of the final 29 games.
2009 saw the Dodgers finish with a 46-26 overall record against divisional rivals, and with these contests virtually counting as two games in the standings, look for the Dodgers to have similar success down the stretch of the 2010 campaign.
Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers' Offense
It goes without saying that there's no possible way the 38-year-old outfielder can carry the Dodgers on his shoulders similar to what he did in the 2008 season, but Manny Ramirez is notorious for his sizzling second-half offensive streaks.
When the Dodger lineup is functioning properly, opposing pitchers need to be careful when dealing to Ramirez. His success at the dish predicates the productivity of those hitting around him—Rafael Furcal, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and James Loney. If Manny catches fire, look for the remainder of the lineup to follow suit.
Throw out all of the "Manny being Manny" idioms—the bottom line is that Manny needs to impress and put up productive numbers for the remainder of the season.
His contract with the Dodgers expires at the end of the year, and although he won't re-sign with Los Angeles, he needs to impress potential suitors around the Majors if he wants even a portion of the $19 million-plus that he's currently earning annually.
His effectiveness and productivity are not only critical for the success of the Dodgers, but they're also imperative for his own future.
Although he began the season with two very shaky appearances, Padilla rebounded nicely with two quality starts before injuring his right forearm and landing on the disabled list for almost two months. However, since returning to the Dodgers' starting rotation on June 19, Padilla has been extremely effective.
In five games started since his return, Padilla has gone 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA. His most impressive start was on July 11 against the Chicago Cubs, when he threw eight complete innings, while surrendering no runs, only two hits, and striking out six.
And despite his lack of consistency, Padilla did prove to everyone during last year's playoff run that he still has the ability to throw high quality stuff. When his split-finger fastball is working properly, it's among the most feared in baseball. Most people don't realize that his fastball still registers speeds up to 96 mph on the radar gun.
If Padilla continues to produce quality starts, it could quite possibly be a catalyst for the other members of the rotation to follow suit.
Help Is on Its Way
Despite the speculation that the organization's ability to add payroll is limited, it's almost certain that the Dodger club will see a new player or two added to the roster before the trade deadline on July 31.
General Manager Ned Colletti has already stated more than once that he's actively pursuing pitching help both for the starting rotation and the bullpen, and whether or not team owner frank McCourt decides to empty his wallet to obtain the big market names, several upgrades will be made.
Everyone in Dodgertown knows the effectiveness that Ramon Troncoso once posessed, and if he can quickly sort out his mechanical flaws in the minors, it could lead to an instant improvement in the bullpen.
If hard-throwing fireman Ronald Belisario has the ability to overcome several personal issues and return in time for the stretch-run, the Dodger bullpen may have a chance of approaching the status that they held among the best relief crews in the League in 2009.
The Major League baseball season consists of 162 games, and even for the best teams in the business, every squad experiences its ins and outs, ups and downs, high points and low points.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre has been a part of Major League baseball for over 50 years, and there's nobody who knows the facets of the game that aren't written in black and white better.
The Manager of the Decade has been widely criticized for his in-game decisions in 2010 by almost everyone in Dodgertown, yet Torre is still the perfect man for the job when it comes to creating team chemistry.
The 2008 season is a fine example of the skipper's leadership skills. When the Dodgers found themselves a disappointing three games under .500 at the All-Star break, the squad rebounded to win the NL West under Torre's leadership, and unexpectedly defeated the Chicago Cubs, who had the best record in the National League, in the NLDS. He also led the team to yet another NLCS appearance in 2009.
Joe Torre's future with the Dodgers is uncertain; and if indeed this will be his final campaign wearing blue, you can bet it will be a memorable one.