Jumat, 04 Mei 2012

Are the Dodgers for real?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have had probably the bes tstart to any season in franchise history as the Dodgers have a four game lead in the NL West, Matt Kemp tearing it up at the plate, a rotation that has been dominated, and a great new ownership group in Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and Mark Walter; officialy taking over the Dodgers from Frank McCourt. So, can the Dodgers maintain this rapid start or will they stumble.

Reasons They Will

1. Matt Kemp is the best player in baseball.
There is no doubt in my mind that Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is the best player in baseball as he has great skills at the plate and of course defensively in center field. Kemp is off to a torrid start with a .400+ average, 12 HRs, and 25 RBIs. Will Kemp maintain this pace at the plate, probably not, but Kemp can definitely still hit 45 HRs, 125 RBIs, and a .350 average which is plenty for the Dodgers. Kemp also has a great arm which will not allow teams to run on potential sacrifice flies. Kemp is a difference maker in every part of the game and when you have someone like that, you can definitely win some ball games.

2. The rotation is loaded with talent.
The Dodgers have tons of experienced talent in the rotation as they have last year's NL Cy Young winner in LA's Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball and probably in the top 5 as Kershaw does not give up many walks and strikes out over 8 per nine innings. Chad Billingsley has beena surprise as he has had his best year. Billingsley is looking like a perfect number two pitcher while Chris Capuano impressed me with his stuff Sunday against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. Ted Lilly has been off to a great start as the veteran lefty has looked very strong in four outings. The experience that this rotation has will allow them to maintain the start that they have had plus Aaron Harang should be able to turn it around from his rough start.

3. The Dodgers have an ownership group that wants to win.
New owners Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, and company have stated their desire to make the Dodgers into a dominate team in the majors and the chance to win right now will make them be aggreesive on the trade market. Catcher could be a potential need and the ownership could be willing to go after a guy like Oakland's Kurt Suzuki. The bullpen is also not in the best shape and a move for the Mariners' Brandon League or the Pirates' Joel Hanrahan are definite possibilities. The other thing is that Stan Kasten knows how to make the right moves which allowed the Braves to be dominant in the Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine days while he then built the framework of the Nationals to allow them to rise to the top of the division. Kasten knows the right moves for the Dodgers and this gives them a great advantage.

Reasons They Won't

1. The bullpen is not good enough.
Over the last couple of years, the Dodgers' bullpen has fallen apart due to injuries from guys like Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo. Both Broxton and Kuo are now elsewhere and the bullpen has one major problem, a lack of experience. Javy Guerra has never been in a close game in the ninth inning in September and Guerra has blwon multiple saves in the past. Scott Elbert and Kenley Jansen have very little experience also and they might struggle down the stretch. However, this bullpen can be fine if veterans like Todd Coffey and Matt Guerrier are successfully able to provide that veteran leadership that will be needed in the Dodger bullpen.

2. The Dodgers do not have much offense outside of Kemp and Andre Ethier.
Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are the two key hitters in this offense as without them, the Dodgers would not be as good and not be NL West division leaders. Dee Gordon has been a disappointment from the leadoff spot as he is struggling to get on base though he has been a terror once he gets on base with 10 steals already. James Loney has nver found the power potential that he has as he is once again struggling with only one home run, 6 RBIs, and a batting average below .230. Kemp and Ethier are the only two guys with over 25 RBIs as after those two, it is AJ Ellis with only 10 RBIs on the season. The Dodgers have some offensive concerns and a move for a first baseman like Minnesota's Justin Morneau could be a good idea.

Conclusion
The Dodgers have some concerns but when you have guys like Kemp, Kershaw, Ethier, and Billigsley on the roster and an ownership group that wants to win, you know your team can make the playoffs. I think the Dodgers can definitely win that divison though they will be pressured by the D'Backs. This Dodger team has the desire to bring success back to Chavez Ravine and that is what they will do as Dodgerland will return to the postseason this October.

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