With 88 games completed the Dodgers have 56 wins, which is the best in baseball. The last Dodger team to do this well was the 1977 Dodgers who had 57 wins at the same juncture, and went on to win 98 games. If we just play .500 ball the rest of the way, we will 93 games, and I cannot see us not playing any worse than that. Unless we lose 4 or 5 regulars and a couple of starting pitchers, that is simply not going to happen. It seems more likely that we should win at least 40-43 games. This team is better and more experienced than last year and I really believe that we will win at least 95 games, even if Jon Broxton is “not right” the rest of the season, which according to Joe Torre, is the way it appears it is going to be. Torre said that Broxton’stoe injury would respond only to rest, so my suggestion is to rest him until about August 15th. We will need to get another pitcher, like George Sherrill who is probably available. I only suggest Sherrill because he is LH, so he and Troncoso could serve as “co-closers.”
Let’s Take a Quick Look at the Offensive Team & Defensive Team:
C - Russ Martin has underperformed but has an excellent OB% and is playing defense at a very bhighlevel. He’s still in the TOP 10 in catchers in all of baseball. I look for him to improve slightly in the second half.
1B – James Loney has been solid with great defense and clutchhitting. I look for him to raise his power numbers in the second half and end up near .300. He should get 100 RBI’s.
2B – Orlando Hudsonhas been simply amazing as a defensive 2B, incredible as a teammate and outstanding as a hitter. The only question is: Can he stay healthy? If he can, he will carry this team a long way.
SS - Rafael Furcal has just started to find his stroke. I think he’ll continue to improve in the 2nd half and end upat around .285. Except for occasional lapses, his defense has been outstanding.
3B – Casey Blake is having a career year – offensively and defensively. I look for him to taper off a little, but think he will hit around .270 with 25 HR and 100 RBI. It’s been a nice year for him. He stepped up when we needed him most.
LF – Manny Ramirez will go crazy the 2nd half in an attempt to prove it wasn’t the ‘roids. He’ll end up near .350 and fall just short of 30 HR and 100 RBI for the first time in 10 years.
CF – Matt Kempis on of the TOP 3 CF in the NL and will end theseasonat above .300 with 25 HR and 100 RBI. He’s a Gold Glover waiting to happen.
RF -Andre Ethier has traded some batting average for strikeouts and HR. He will hit 30-35 HR with 110 RBI while hitting .265-.270. A nice year. He’s a solid piece.
The bench has been solid with Ausmus, Castro, Loretta and the Amazing Juan Pierre. With Doug Mientkiewicz returning soon. The offense has a “Championship feel.” Lately, the team seems to be generating more power and I thing you will see more offense generated from the “three-run homer. Champinship teams are strong defensively up the middle and this team has all that in spades. Martin, Furcal, Hudson, Kemp and even Blake and Loney have all been near that Gold Glove Caliber Defense. Our infield defense is simply outstanding.
Now, the Pitching:
Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda have been sputtering recently, for different reasons. Kuroda missed most of two months and just has nor regained his rhythm. He is hitting 96 MPH consistently, so I believe it’s just a matter of getting a few more starts under his belt. He doesn’t have an arm problem. Chad Billingsley is an All-Star and our Ace. Pitchers all have rough spells and he will straighten it out. If you consider his age anddevelopment, there’s not many better starters in the NL. We can win with Chad as our ace. Everyone seems to be worried about our starting pitching, but Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best starters in all of baseball the past 6 weeks. He knows he “nibbles too much” and he IS getting better. Someone mentioned Rick Ankiel andhowClayton might be like him if faced with playoff pressure. Well, there simply is no comparison. Clayton is not wild – he’s just not as efficient as he should be. He doesn’t have to solve it all overnight. He has 11 more bases on balls than Matt Cain in 18 more innings. If he can just shave 10-20% off his pitch count, he will be dominating (more than he is now).
By playoff time, we will see Billingsley, Kershaw and Kuroda being a formidable trio, andwithRandyWolf at number 4, we are solid. Randy had an excellent second half last year and I see no reason he can’t continue. In a playoff situation, he goes to the pen, where left handerssimply cannot hit him. Lefties are hitting .149 against him. The Wild Card is Jason Schmidt. Can he even re-gain a portion of his stuff so that he can be our #5. You will find out in the next week or so. I don’t know the answer, but he knows how to pitch, is healthy and needs another contract for next year. He has reasons to succeed. Eric Stults is healthy again, andcanstep in if Schmidt doesn’t cut it. With Eric Miltons’ back issues, I’d be surprised if we see him any more this year.
Our middle relievers have been excellent for the most part. Most of you only remember the guys last outing, but Jeff Weaver has been an excellent role-player for us. He has won 5 games and has pitched as a long and short reliever and a spot starter. He’s a good guy to have in the pen. It seems likely that Kuo will return and be able to pitch every 3 days. If he can just give us 2 innings every 3 days, he’ll be an asset. Belisario will be out until Mid-August and Cory Wade is an enigma, but Mota has simply been outstanding of late and Troncoso is “lights out.” I think Ned will have to get a reliever (George Sherrill) to spell Jon Broxton and his ailing toe. Scott Elbert, Brent Leach, James McDonald and Claudio Vargas round out the pen and we have more help at AA and AAA, if needed.
Now, I would love to have Roy Halladay, but Toronto is going to want to gut our farm system. It has been rumored that the Cardinals have offered the Blue Jays their pick of ANY 5 minor league prospects. No way I would do that. Let me remind you that we have won 56 games, and with 74 games to go, we will likely win in excess of 93 games, even if we stumble a lot. We have a potent offense (1st in Batting Average and 2nd in Runs Scored in the NL), and that was accomplished without Manny for 50 games. We should be as good, or better the second half.
We are second to the Giants in team ERA (3.51 to 3.58) in the NL. You can worry about “what if” all you want – this is WHAT IS! We have the second best team ERA in all of baseball. End of story. The Giants have more complete games, but we have a better and deeper bullpen. I do think we need another closer and will have to give up some prospects to get one, but I think we should keep Pierre and that we should not giveup the farm for Halladay. If the Phils get Halladay, they still have a weak rotation, especially with Hamels struggling mightily. We have the horses to win it all, all we need is another closer.
Dodger Fans, enjoy the ride. This team has got IT (whatever IT is).
I threw away my cane yesterday (20 days post-op) and am walking alone (albeit with “wobbly baby steps”).