Los Angeles Dodgers: 10 Things the Fans Still Have to Look Forward to in 2011
Just two years removed from a 95-win regular season and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Los Angeles Dodgers suddenly look like one of the lowliest teams in all of baseball.
The Dodgers have lost 10 out of their last 15 games, are currently 5.5 games out first place in the NL West and rank towards the very bottom of the NL in runs, OPS, and bullpen ERA.
Part of the Dodgers' struggles can be attributed to the vast number of injuries that the Dodgers have suffered. While the starting pitching staff has remained relatively healthy this season, the Dodger infield and bullpen have been decimated by injuries.
Making matters worse is the current owner's situation, which has put the Dodger franchise in somewhat of a financial bind. Even if the Dodgers are sold in the next several weeks, which is beginning to look like a real possibility, it is unlikely that the team will make any sort of major moves until a new owner is put in place, which does not figure to happen until after the season.
Dodger fans are typically among the most loyal and highest attending in the sport, but these days, they are running out of reasons to follow the team.
However, Dodger fans still have these 10 things to look forward to in 2011.
10. Dodgers Reach 175,000 Hits
The Dodgers are just under 600 base hits away from becoming the eighth ever franchise to reach 175,000 hits.
Assuming that the Dodgers offense continues its current pace of about 10 hits per game, they will reach the 175,000-hit plateau during the middle of August.
In case you're wondering, the Dodger franchise, which is best known for its great pitching, has the best ERA historically (3.54) among all 30 teams. They have just the 16th-highest team batting average.
9. Another 10-Win Season for Jon Garland
Garland, who is off to a bit of a slow start, is looking to win 10 games for the 10th consecutive season.
He began the season on the DL and has just one win all season, but if he pitches well and gets any sort of run support, then he will still have a legitimate shot of reaching the double-digit plateau in wins once again.
8. Another 10-Win Season for Ted Lilly
Lilly, who is currently 3-4 on the year, also has a streak on the line of winning at least 10 games or more.
Prior to his most recent outing, he had failed to put together back-to-back quality starts all season. However, If he stays healthy, he will have a very good chance of winning at least 10 games for the ninth consecutive season.
7. Dodgers in Minnesota
The Dodgers will play in Minnesota during the last week of June, which will be their first ever trip to the Twins' new ballpark, Target Field.
Besides the fact that the Twins have the worst record in major league baseball and could be an easy matchup for Los Angeles, the Dodgers will also be making just their second appearance in Minneapolis since the 1965 World Series.
The '65 World Series is certainly one of the most memorable in Dodger history. In that series, Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax missed Game 1 because of the Yom Kippur holiday, but he still managed to throw 24 innings and win two games, while allowing just one earned run. The Dodgers went on to win the series in seven games.
6. Duke Snider Bobblehead Night
The Dodgers will host the Phillies on August 9th, which is scheduled to be Duke Snider bobble head give away night.
Snider, of course, was a Dodger legend and one of the most popular players in franchise history. The athletic centerfielder helped the Dodgers win World Series titles in 1955 and 1959 and is the Dodgers all-time leader in home runs with 389.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, there is a good chance that they will have to face Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee that night. But either way, fans attending the game will receive a Snider bobble head and figure to witness great starting pitching from both teams.
5. Dodgers Drawing 3,000,000 Fans Once Again
Although the Dodgers are averaging nearly 6,000 less fans per home game than they had last season, they are still among the leaders in the NL in attendance (2nd) and attendance per game (4th).
The Dodgers currently have a streak on the line of drawing 3,000,000 fans or more in 11 consecutive seasons, the longest such streak in the NL. They are on pace for about 295 million, so they will need to average about 38,000 per game the rest of the way, which is very plausible.
4. The Rise of Jerry Sands
Sands came up with the Dodgers in late April and is still in the early stages of becoming an impactful everyday major league player.
The young slugger hit 35 home runs in the Dodgers minor league system last year, as well as 19 home runs the previous year. He can play left field or first base, which are each positions that the Dodgers have been struggling to get production out of.
The Dodgers are hoping that Sands can get a feel for major league pitching in 2011, particularly in a season that does not appear to be headed anywhere anyway.
After a slow start, Sands has six hits, two home runs and five RBI in his last six games.
3. The Debut of Dee Gordon
Many Dodger fans are anticipating the major league debut of shortstop Dee Gordon, who is currently playing for AAA- Albuquerque, the Dodgers' minor league affiliate.
Gordon was selected in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Amateur draft and has quickly made his way to AAA. He has shown himself to be extremely athletic and quick, as well as a consistent contact hitter.
Gordon is currently hitting .311 so far this season and will likely be called up to the major leagues in September when rosters expand to 40 players.
2. Giants Failing to Become Back-to-Back Champions
For Dodger fans, there is nothing worse than having to acknowledge the San Francisco Giants as defending World Series champions. After all, from 1955-2009, the Dodgers won six championships, while the Giants didn't win any.
While the Giants are in basically the same position right now as they were in last season at this point, their lack of offense, especially with the recent injury to Buster Posey, will really make things challening.
Yes, the Giants may very well head back to the postseason with the same elite starting pitching staff that they had last season. But with so few weapons in their starting lineup, it will take an even bigger miracle for the Giants to repeat as defending champs.
1. 2011 All-Star Game
Despite the fact that the Dodgers rank near the very bottom in most relevant offensive categories, they will likely send two of their hitters to the All-Star game. The two hitters I am referring to are of course outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who have been the only real consistent threats in the Dodger lineup this season.
Meanwhile, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw appears All-Star bound as well. Kershaw, who is still just 22 years old, has been one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball over the past three years, but he has yet to make his All-Star appearance.
Kershaw is 6-3 on the year, and his ERA is currently below 3.00 for the third consecutive season.