Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 Ways They Could Play Spoilers This Year
It is not a position that any team likes being in.
Spoilers are just a euphemism for being eliminated—and the only role the Dodgers can play for the second season in a row.
The 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers season has been marred by the inexplicably continuously-decaying financial situation. The lack of production on the field has only magnified the franchise's deep problems.
Many are calling for a complete clearing of the house before the 2012 season, assuming the ownership situation is cleared up with the infamous Frank McCourt.
The only way the Dodgers can affect the final outcome of the MLB season is by spoiling it for contending teams.
They will get the opportunity to ruin it for the contenders, as they have 18 games left against teams vying for one of the NL's four playoff births.
With six games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and six games against the Giants, along with three games against both the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers could really make the road a lot more difficult for their old rivals.
Out of the four teams, the Dodgers have a long-lasting rivalry with all of them except for the Braves.
Furthermore, with Matt Kemp contending for the NL MVP and Clayton Kershaw posting up numbers akin to a NL Cy Young winner, the Dodgers have individual pride and awards to play for as well.
Also, the next six weeks will be an extended period of auditioning for young players such as Justin Sellars, Nathan Eovaldi and Josh Lindblom.
Let's check out how the Dodgers are going to play a major role in the September playoff push.
Matt Kemp Gets Hot, Torches D'Backs on Way to Triple Crown
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Matt Kemp could be the most famous player in baseball right now, if he wasn't playing for the Dodgers.
If he were in Pinstripes and jogging around Monument Park in the Bronx, every SportsCenter broadcast would begin with a Kemp "Triple Crown Watch."
Kemp is batting .320, currently fifth in the NL in hitting but only 16 points behind leader Jose Reyes.
Kemp is only one surge or hot streak from making a run at Reyes, and considering the Dodgers offense can't get any worse, Kemp is due for a hitting streak.
Kemp has 28 home runs, which is good enough for third in the NL in home runs as well.
Kemp has been hitting the ball with authority all season, posting a .580 slugging percentage on his way to his first All-Star campaign.
He would probably have more home runs if he were not playing his home games in spacious Dodger Stadium, a traditional pitcher's park.
Add the games played in the impossibly large Petco Park in San Diego, and that is a disadvantage in more than 90 games a season.
Kemp's RBI numbers are the biggest anomaly.
It is so impressive that Kemp is second in the NL with 85 RBI, especially when the Dodgers do not and can not get on base.
Kemp has the fifth-best OPS in the NL and the most at-bats among the top contenders because he has yet to take a day off.
Considering the Dodgers have scored only 441 runs this season, averaging just about three runs a game (which ranks them third-worst in the majors), Kemp's achievements have been even more impressive.
Everyone should tip their cap to Kemp, especially the D'Backs, whom Kemp has destroyed. Kemp has 10 hits, including four home runs, in only nine games against the D'Backs.
It seems like every time the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks, Kemp does something incredible.
For the Dodgers to spoil the D'Backs hopes at the division crown, they will have to do some incredible things, too.
Clayton Kershaw Dominates Giants, Bests Lincecum & Others for Cy Young
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Clayton Kershaw, a constant source of joy and hope for the future in Dodger Blue, has been phenomenal in the season where he has truly come of age.
Kershaw, at 14-5, has an amazing 2.72 ERA and has the been one of the few Dodger bright spots this season.
Clayton, sixth in the NL in ERA, has only four truly subpar performances in 25 overall starts.
He has dominated the competition for the most part, leading the National League in strikeouts, with 193 already.
He is on pace for well over 250 strikeouts, a number clipped by pitchers very seldom.
His 14 wins is the third most in the National League, behind only Roy Halladay and Ian Kennedy.
He has four complete games and two shutouts, on which only Cliff Lee of the Phillies has him beat.
Kershaw has been at his best against the hated Giants.
After beating Tim Lincecum on opening day—which was the highlight of the Dodgers' season—Kershaw has thoroughly plowed through the Giants all year, posting a 3-0 record against the defending champs.
He has allowed only four runs in almost 27 innings of work against the division rivals.
Partly because of his work, the Giants find themselves still trailing the D'Backs in the NL West race.
Kershaw should get to pitch against the Giants two more times this season, potentially against Lincecum again, because they are both No. 1 pitchers.
No matter who Kershaw goes up against, expect him to win.
A couple more standout performances this season could swing the Cy Young Award back to Chavez Ravine in a way reminiscent of a young and powerful left-handed pitcher by the name of Sanford, Sanford Koufax that is.
Kuroda and Company Stifle Giants Mediocre Bats, Ruins Chances for Repeat
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Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley have also been very successful pitching against the rival Giants.
Kuroda's career ERA against the Giants is just over 3.00 in 70-plus career innings, including some clutch wins in September of 2008, when the Dodgers clinched the NL West.
Chad Billingsley has been more erratic against the Giants in his career.
This season Bills has struggled mightily, winless in his three starts and posting an ERA this season against the Giants north of 6.00.
Chad has been more successful in previous seasons, including some big-time wins in 2009 against the boys in black and orange.
Billingsley has had a roller coaster season, however, and it would be very reassuring for the future of the ball club if he settled into a groove that he has been known for.
His good stretches last for an entire month, when he goes out and every start is a quality effort where he puts the Dodgers in a good chance to win.
This year, Chad is 10-9 with a 4.17 ERA.
Granted, Hiroki Kuroda is 8-14, but his 2.92 ERA overall shows that it is a lack of offensive production that leads to his subpar record.
Chad Billingsley, who posted a 3.53 ERA in 2010, needs to take that next step and prove to the entire organization over the next 40 some-odd games that he is the guy the franchise wants to move forward with.
That, and both Chad and Hiroki preventing the Giants from making the playoffs, would be sweet, sweet justice in so many ways.
Andre Ethier's Power Returns, Just in Time to Sink Cardinals in St. Louis
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Andre Ethier has had a significant and depressing power outage since the All-Star Break.
Only two home runs since the three-day break in the beginning of July has now become a major concern for Dodgers faithful, who expect Ethier to be a presence in the lineup to protect Matt Kemp.
Ethier's batting average is down about 15 points during his five-week slide post All-Star Break, which isn't too concerning.
Ethier has had four multi-hit games in the last two weeks, which shows promise, but it isn't the power fans expect from the right fielder.
Ethier's swing did not look good in the past home stand, and he has not made the adjustments he needs to, but the great thing about Andre is his naturally sweet swing.
It will come around and he will figure it out, so expect him to break out of his funk in a big way next week when the Dodgers venture to St. Louis to play the Cardinals.
Andre has hit the Cardinals hard over his career, including in the postseason.
He has gone deep twice in the new Busch Stadium in only nine at bats and has five career hits in the new stadium.
Overall, he hits the Cardinals for about a .350 clip in more than 60 at-bats, so expect him to light up an already dreadfully warm St. Louis evening.
Dee Gordon Brings Back the Speed Needed to Run Braves off the Tracks
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Even though Dee Gordon is on the disabled list, he is still scheduled to return before the Dodgers trek to Atlanta to face the streaking Braves.
Over the Labor Day weekend, the Dodgers will play a three-game series against the Braves, who have a commanding lead in the NL Wild Card and are chasing the dominant Philadelphia Phillies.
Gordon, who has stolen 12 bases in his short time as the Dodgers' shortstop, is batting only .234 in 110 at-bats so far, but he has a long time to prove himself, considering he is going to be the starter next season.
Gordon has proven that he is a superb defender, making some absolutely incredible plays in the hole and off-balance throws.
He should be fun to watch for the rest of the season.
In terms of what he can do to spark the offense, he will allow Jamey Carroll to move around the infield and allow Justin Sellars to provide some punch off the bench.
With Casey Blake being very fragile and very much available to any contending team that wants to give him a chance, Gordon's presence in the infield will help prepare Dodger fans for the future.
Dee can definitely disrupt a pitcher, and he brings such natural speed to the top of a lineup that it can create runs out of thin air.
For the paltry offense that the Dodgers have, they will take anything they can get as they will be going up against stud pitchers Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson and a dynamite bullpen.