National League West Sneak Peak No. 2: Can LA Dodgers' Glory Days Return?

Robert C BinyonContributor IIDecember 22, 2010

PHOENIX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on September 24, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

My buddy Vinnie over at Talking Giants Baseball contacted me and told me he would like me to do a guest blog entry about the Dodgers. He wants me to throw a preview at him. Well...he's not going to like what I'm about to write, because the Dodgers are coming back full force next year for a 100 win season and that NL West title.

Last season the Dodgers ended with an 80-82 record, far below the 95 wins they had in 2009. A few different things contributed to their drastic fall in performance. In no order:

1. Matt Kemp - Since 2007, when Kemp played 92 games and had nearly 300 at bats, he's never had a season in which he batted below.290. Last season he hit only .249, and while his power continued to develop, his tremendous decrease in contact made him a less dangerous RBI guy, and robbed him of several possible home run opportunities.

I don't know if its his newly formed relationship with Rihanna or just an off year, but Kemp's defense also took a terrible tumble. He was coming off a gold glove season in center field with every night having a possible web gem, but last season he continuously misplayed balls and looked foolish. Kemp will need to regain his earlier, more promising form if the Dodgers are going to have a chance to win the NL West.

2. Jonathan Broxton - What the hell happened to Broxton? He was terrible last season. All of a sudden he looked scared and confused, like he had no idea what he was doing on a pitcher's mound.

In previous years, when the Dodgers would send Broxton and his 100MPH fastball out for the final three outs, there was very little doubt that he would get the job done. Maybe his two previous collapses in the NLCS against the Phillies finally caught up to him, but last season his ERA ballooned to 4.04.

In his previous four seasons, Broxton's ERA had only been above 2.85 once (3.13, 2008). Unless Broxton is dealt this season, he will need to come back down to Earth and start knocking people down again.

3. The Divorce - The McCourts' looming divorce didn't allow the Dodgers to go out and add the pieces they needed in order to compete. They needed to fill out the rotation better and the people who we did add were all old journeyman. It was almost as though they made some moves to make it look like they were still trying to compete.

This offseason however, when many people thought that the trend would continue, we've been one of the most active teams (besides Boston, or New York). We've gone out and bolstered our starting five, with the re-signing of Kiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly along with the addition of Jon Garland.

Based on last year's statistics, this group is the best rotation in the MLB. If they can continue to work deep into ballgames, and keep our team in position to win games, we just have to hope our pen can handle the rest.

4. Manny Ramirez - Well...Manny wasn't really Manny anymore. Maybe this is the new Manny we have to look forward to, but luckily, as a team, we don't have to worry about it anymore. Personally, I've always been a big Ramirez fan, but after he was suspended for his "PED's" he was never the same. Coincidence? I don't really care; either way, he was not the same middle of the lineup threat that he used to be.

In 66 games with the Dodgers he did manage to hit .311, but only hit 8 homeruns. In 2010 his AB/HR ratio was 24.5/1, a far cry from the end of 2008 when he came to the Dodgers and propelled them into the playoffs when it was 11/1. Manny has to be having fun to play good baseball, and after he was suspended fifty games he didn't seem to handle the pressure of the LA fans very well. Good luck Manny.

With these reasons looking to change, the Dodgers should be at least 10 wins better than they were a year ago. That puts them at minimum 90-72. Not the 100 wins that I boldly (and semi-jokingly) predicted at the beginning of this preview. The biggest weaknesses for the Dodgers last season were driving in runs, and late-game bullpen issues.

Those are two very pivotal issues when it comes to baseball, but I think with Matt Kemp returning to form, the additions of Vicente Padilla to the bullpen and Tony Gwynn to the outfield, the Dodgers have already improved. With the rumors swirling that they are after Prince Fielder (for Broxton and Loney), the Dodgers aren't done changing this team.

At the current state the Dodgers are in, I think think they are a lock for nothing lower than No. 2 in the NL West. With the addition of a big bat in left field and one more arm in the bullpen, I think we can realistically contend for a 100-win season, and the NL West title.


Check out the N.L. West Sneak Peak No. 1: S.F. Giants

This article is also featured on The L.A. Sports Minute.