Los Angeles Dodgers 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Los Angeles Dodgers.

*If you ever go to Dodger Stadium, we want you to try a Super Dodger Dog and some fresh Jalapenos. We would.

Diamond Hogger’s Los Angeles Dodgers blog of choice: Sons of Steve Garvey

Rafael Furcal will lead off. Furcal is a great igniter and when he gets on base, if the legs are well he’s a major pain in the ass for the opposition. Following Furcal is our favorite fucking bat boy: Juan Pierre. There’s no more bat-boyish player in the entire game, and we expect Juan Pierre to be more of a bat boy then ever in 2008. He’ll single you to death, he’ll drive in 36-46 runs, and he’ll steal 50 bags. Our favorite Dodger will hit 3rd, James Loney. Loney should have a long and promising career in baseball. He’s similar to Mark Grace at this point in his career. He plays every day, good glove, hits for average with some extra base pop but hasn’t developed his power stroke. We think Loney could hit .315 in a full season’s work.

Everyone knows the clean-up hitter, Andruw Jones. Jones comes over after a long career in Atlanta and he’s trying to prove he can still play. What the hell happened to Jones last season? Coming off a career season in 2006, he needed to do well last season because he was in a contract year. He responded with one of the lowest batting averages of his career and a disappearance of his power numbers. He’s not playing in the best ballpark as far as being condusive to power hitters goes.

Ageless Jeff Kent will most likely begin the season hitting 5th. We’re waiting for a monumental collapse of Kent, we’re just glad it didn’t come last season with Kent a viable member of our fantasy team.

Tool-player Matt Kemp will play right field and hit 6th, and we call him that because he’s a superstar based on his tools. That is good for about a season and then it begins to get you in trouble if you don’t produce. We’re really not that high on Kemp. He is a dime-a-dozen. The Dodger’s face player is their catcher, Russell Martin. Cut in the mold of former Dodger gamer Paul Lo Duca, LA fans are hoping Martin can put up the numbers in his prime that Mike Piazza did. Los Angeles has always prided its franchise on having a fine backstop; but we don’t think it’s just casual hype with Martin. This kid can play. He’s tough and hits balls that go out of any park. He also gained most of his notoriety for banging out Alyssa Milano last season. He’s had a promising start to his career.

Hitting 8th will most likely be Mr. Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciaparra. He basically defines much of the Dodger lineup. Inflated value off past reputation. He doesn’t hit for power anymore and he doesn’t play great defense. He’s brittle these days. He’s probably going to hang onto his job at the hot corner because Joe Torre loves veterans. Keep an eye on mega-prospect Andy LaRoche. We promise he’s going to be better than brother Adam. He’s a corner infielder with some pop.

Overall this lineup has a lot of age in it. That coupled with the fact that they play in a mammoth ballpark tells you that this team will need to out-pitch their opponents to win.

Rating: 7.2

The Dodgers starting rotation is a strong and underrated group. That starts with their ace, Brad Penny. When he’s healthy, he’s as filthy as any starter the opponent can trot out there. He’s got hard and heavy stuff that makes hitters extremely uncomfortable. He’s got a favorable contract and is a steal at his price.

Chad Billingsley should be the #2, and he’s shown a lot of promise in the early going of his career. He’ll be the next one if all goes as projected. The Dodgers are excited about this kid, and look to him to provide about 15 wins this season if they’re going to be a contender for the division.

Derek Lowe, Hideki Kuroda, and Jason Schmidt round out the Dodgers starters. Lowe is an innings eater who on any given night can look like a staff ace. That or he gets hit extremely hard. Kuroda is the latest Japanese import and like most Japanese imports, he’s got some funky ass movement on his ball. He is somewhat a wildcard as with most Japanese pitchers who haven’t been in MLB before. The 5th starter is Schmidt. Schmidt probably won’t return to form as a staff ace at this point in his career (he’s coming off shoulder surgery to boot), but he’s a warrior who could show flashes of his prior brilliance. If he does that this group is going to be very tough.

Takashi Saito very much helps this group. You had to know the guy was going to be dominant if the Dodgers were willing to part with Eric Gagne (and boy did they sell that stock at the right time). When he comes into a game, it’s over 95% of the time at worst. He’s one of the top 5 closers in the game, let alone the N.L.

The set-up guy is Jonathan Broxton (solid). Joe Beimel is the lefty specialist (solid). Scott Proctor, Rudy Seanez, and Esteban Loiaza are likely to get the call on any given night.

Rating: 8.1

You thought he was done, and so did we. Joe Torre surprised us all, and will most likely finish his managerial career in Los Angeles. Torre alone probably adds 1o wins to a team per year, regardless of personnel and competition within the division. He’s a great manager, and there aren’t that many throwback, great managers left in baseball. JT Godfather will be missed in New York, and will show his in-game brilliance time and time again out in California this season. If the Dodgers end up surprising and making the playoffs, you have your #1 reason why right here.

Rating: 9.3

Poor spending over the recent history has hurt this franchise. When you spend as much as the Dodgers and you have as little postseason series wins to show for it over the last 10-15 years; you can blame the people at the top. GM Ned Coletti was a family friend of my ro
omate, ironically.

As far as chemistry goes, this is an aging roster. It’s an All-Star team from the late 90’s. That isn’t as bad as it could be, as Joe Torre likes his veterans. He knows how to motivate an aging player.

They have the personnel to help themselves in that ballpark. Gap power, lots of speed and pretty good pitching. This will give them a chance. They have a lot of guys who should play fine together, but I wouldn’t expect them to be especially great in close/late ballgames or coming from behind.

Rating: 7.0

This team has the makings of a decent group, but I don’t think they’re going to win the West. The things that will help them are obvious. A dominant closer, a great manager, speed at the top of the lineup, and having a team that is built to play in their home ballpark. Their downfall will be that they have a bit too much age at this stage in the game. The careers of too many in their lineup are flickering and in decline. I think this is a team that could finish 4 games or so above .500 for the season.

Rating: 7.9