2011 National League West Previews: Dodgers

Today’s Focus: Los Angeles Dodgers

2010 Record: 80-82, 4th NL West

In 2010 the Dodgers struggled to an 80-82 overall record but they were 40-32 against the NL West. The Dodgers ended 2009 in first place but, in 2010 they finished in 4th place even though they had nearly the same team. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Jonathan Broxton were arguably their best players in 2009 but they struggled mightily at times in 2010. Will they be able to rebound in 2011?

The Dodgers offense was not good in 2010. The ranked 2nd to last in home runs with only 120 and led the NL in caught stealing (Thanks Matt Kemp) with 50! This same offense clicked in 2009 when they finished 4th in runs and RBI. The team also led the NL in batting average. Most of us expect Matt Kemp to bounce back this year. Kemp will be batting cleanup and his power is for real. Andre Ethier admitted he came back too early from a broken pinky last may. Ethier was one of the best players in the game before his injury. He may hit 30 hr again and could chip in a .300 AVG. Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake need to stay healthy because if Jamey Carroll sees 414 plate appearances again this year, the Dodgers may be in trouble. If Casey Blake starts the year on the DL, Don Mattingly said he will shift Juan Uribe to 3rd and have Carroll play 2nd. The hiring of Davey Lopes is one move everyone has downplayed this season. If you’re not buying it from me, just ask the Phillies. Juan Uribe is a big upgrade over Blake DeWitt, Ryan Theriot, Ronnie Belliard, and whoever the hell else the Dodgers had at 2nd base in 2010.  We are looking at a platoon situation with Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames. I expect 2011 will be a much better year for the Dodgers offensively. 

The Dodgers were not so hot defensively last year (-30.0 UZR). This is due in large part to their outfield defense of Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier.  Kemp took a huge step back from 2009 when he won a gold glove. Jay Gibbons is an upgrade over Manny and Ethier put up his worst year ever according to URZ(-15.4). Rafael Furcal committed 19 errors in only 93 games. The Dodgers defense in 2009 was slightly above average (2.3 UZR) so they should rebound.

The Dodgers rotation is pretty solid. They were 3rd in the NL in strikeouts in 2010 with Clayton Kershaw leading the way (212). Kershaw will only get better and I expect him to be a Cy Young candidate in 2011. The rotation looks like this; Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garland. Ted Lilly stepped in well last year going 7-4, 3.52 ERA, with 77 K to only 15 BB in 76.2 innings pitched. I am a fan of Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda. They are being drafted as the 50th and 56th starting pitchers. Jon Garland is as durable as they come but, he may miss some of the regular season with a strained left oblique muscle. Since Vicente Padilla won’t return before the season starts, John Ely may take Jon Garland’s spot in the rotation. Jonathan Broxton will start the year as the Dodgers closer but I expect him to be on a short leash because of his disastrous 2nd half and other options available. Don Mattingly will not use Broxton for more than one inning like Joe Torre did. If Broxton falters, I expect Hong-Chih Kuo to take his spot even though Kenley Jansen is their closer of the future.

Notable Losses: Russell Martin, George Sherrill, Ryan Theriot, Brad Ausmus, Scott Podsednik

Notable Pickups: Matt Guerrier, Juan Uribe, Blake Hawksworth, Jon Garland, Dioner Navarro, Tony Gwynn, Marcus Thames, Gabe Kapler

I expect the Dodgers to have a bounce back year and return to 2009 form.

Prediction: 91-71 2nd NL West

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