Leading up to the start of the 2010 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
Rollin’ down the Imperial Highway
With a big nasty redhead at my side
Santa Ana winds blowin’ hot from the north
And we was born to ride
Roll down the window put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys baby
Don’t let the music stop
We’re gonna ride it till we just can’t ride it no more
They play that great tune after every Dodgers home win. Last season, the Dodgers were one of the best home teams in baseball. They opened the season with 13 straight home wins. This is the most heavily loaded team in the NL and while they are not without their blemishes, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with all season. When you’re playing the guys in Dodger blue, you better strap it on or you’re going to end up getting rolled quickly in a short series.
We have to like this lineup one through five about as much as we like anyone in the NL. Shortstop Rafael Furcal has been around forever, but he’s still only in his early 30’s and if healthy he’s one of the most formidable offensive leadoff hitters in baseball. We would expect him to rebound from a seaosn last year that saw him hit only .269 for the year.
Matt Kemp is living the good life. He’s 24, and he’s one solid year away from an enormous contract. He’s dated Rihanna, and he can hit for power, run like a gazelle and play gold glove defense in centerfield. If he has a good season and the Dodgers win like we expect them to, he’ll garner some MVP votes. And we’re about sick of hearing of him already.
The heart of the order features the evolving Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, and James Loney. Any of these guys could contend for the batting title, and they could all knock in 100 runs. Ethier showed some surprising power last season while Loney showed a surprising lack of, hitting only 13 home runs for the second straight season. Manny will be Manny, in what he says is his final season in Los Angeles. It wouldn’t be surprising if Manny just retires after this season, without any ceremony or press conference or anything. That’s just the way he is.
The Dodgers leader in the clubhouse is Casey Blake, who returns for another season at third base. Joe Torre hit him everywhere in the order last season and Blake responded by hitting .280 with 18 homers and 79 RBI. That’s not a bad option for your sixth hole hitter.
Russell Martin will open the season injured, but should return to hit around .300 and steal a handful of bases. Blake Dewitt will round out the bottom of the order and get some time at second base. The bench features some good depth with Jamey Carroll, Reed Johnson, and Ronnie Belliard. And let’s not forget Brad Ausmus. Yes, that Brad Ausmus. If he makes the team he’ll qualify for the most worthless big leaguer on a 25-man roster.
The starting rotation is really the sizzle that sells this steak to us. Chad Billingsley is ready to enter the elite category as far as aces go. We’re surprised that he finished 12-11 last year with an ERA over 4. Expect him to shave a run off the ERA and win 18-20 games. Clayton Kershaw is close as well, going 8-8 but with a 2.79 ERA this past season. Hiroki Kuroda and James McDonald serve as pretty solid 3-4 guys, either could win 13-15 games easily. McDonald’s stuff is vastly underrated and he’ll go against a lot of guys who are the 4 and 5 men in rotations.
The closer headlining the bullpen is Jonathan Broxton. Broxton is a power pitcher who saved 36 games last season while striking out 114 in 76 innings. He walked only 29 hitters. He could be the game’s finest closer by the end of this season. Getting him the ball will be Ramon Troncoso (2.72 ERA), Ronald Belisario (2.04 ERA), George Sherrill, and Hong Chi Kuo. You can’t do much better then that as a collective group. This team is built so well.
From the standpoint of manager, they’ve got the Godfather returning for one more season at least. Joe Torre is a great manager, and he should be respected for his accomplishments. If he can win a title in the NL and ride out of town on top, he will only build to his legacy as one of the greatest ever. People don’t realize how tough it is to go from the AL and win to the NL. Torre will be the difference in what gets the Dodgers to the top of the crop in the NL this season.