The Dodgers could not take control of a weak division last season until they traded for Manny Ramirez. Riding his bat and an overall energized offense, the Dodgers made it to their first League Championship Series since 1988. Now, after some drama, Manny is back with the Dodgers, but they also lost starters Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and former closer Takashi Saito. Are the Dodgers still good enough to get back to the play-offs?
2008 Finish: 84-78, 1st in NL Central, 2.0 games ahead
People will flock to Dodgers stadium to see a strong offense.
Home Field: Dodgers Stadium
Welcome to La-La Land
3B Casey Blake (Re-signed with Dodgers)
SS Rafael Furcal (Re-signed with Dodgers)
OF Manny Ramirez (Re-signed with Dodgers)
SP Randy Wolf (Signed from Astros)
Lost their Glamour
RP Joe Beimel (Unsigned free agent)
SS Angel Berroa (Signed with Yankees)
SS Nomar Garciaparra (Signed with Athletics)
2B Jeff Kent (Retired)
SP Derek Lowe (Signed with Braves)
SP Greg Maddux (Retired)
RP Chan Ho Park (Signed with Phillies)
SP Brad Penny (Signed with Red Sox)
RP Scott Proctor (Signed with Marlins)
RP Takashi Saito (Signed with Red Sox)
Strength – Offense
This offense looks great. Yes, it finished 13th in the National League in runs scored last season, but there is so much to love here. Rafael Furcal, when healthy, is one of the better leadoff hitters in the major leagues. Manny Ramirez consistently produces great numbers, while Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier took big steps toward being middle-of-the-order hitters last season.
Compare the Dodgers’ heart of the order with the Cubs’ chain of pain in Ramirez-Lee-Soto-Soriano-Bradley and there may not be too much difference this season. Los Angeles, in fact, has the upper hand on most NL teams in this department.
Weakness – Starting Rotation
No doubt about it, Dodgers Stadium suppresses offensive statistics. This rotation is going to need all the help it can from its home field.
Staff ace Derek Lowe and the serviceable Greg Maddux are gone. Those defections leave Chad Billingsley atop the rotation, which suits him well. After him are Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. Those three arms provide wonderful depth, but none is a No. 2 guy. Jason Schmidt missed all of last season, but is aiming for the fifth slot in the rotation.
Kuroda, however, will be the Opening Day starter.
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Andre Ethier
CF Matt Kemp
C Russell Martin
1B James Loney
3B Casey Blake
Jason Schmidt / Claudio Vargas
CL Jonathan Broxton
RP Hong-Chih Kuo
RP Guillermo Mota
Did Ramirez and Ethier feed off each other last season or were they riding hot streaks? Obviously, Ramirez isn’t going to hit .396 over an entire season, while Ethier isn’t the .462 hitter he was in September. But if they can at least regain the majority of those numbers, they could lead the Dodgers into the playoffs.
Don’t expect Los Angeles to face much competition within the NL West. The Diamondbacks could make things interesting, but expect the Dodgers to win the division by three or four games. Expect 86-87 wins.