Another West Coast team! Boy, if we'd waited until people actually, you know, read this blog before we started doing these silly previews, we'd be losing a lot of audience. But fortunately for us, that's just not a real problem. Anyway, the Dodgers! The Chavez Ravine crew made an impressive run last year after adding one of our favorite sluggers, Manny Ramirez, at the deadline. In the playoffs, they vaulted past the Cubs into the waiting jaws of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, so we guess in retrospect that might have hurt a little bit. But they're back and ready to go at it again!
On offense, this was a morose bunch after it lost its sparkplug Rafael Furcal and before it added its best piece in Manny. But when they're both in the lineup, this is as good a bunch as you'll find anywhere. They lost former star - and, more recently, former good baseball player - Nomar Garciaparra, as well as second baseman Jeff Kent. Also, they non-tendered Angel Berroa, which could really come back to hurt them. We suspect that sentence is a perfect representation of internet sarcasm. But a full 162 (ok, more like 120) games of Manny and Furcal will be good enough, especially when combined with the oodles of young talent (we're not looking at you, Casey Blake).
On the mound, Dodgers hurlers fared fairly well. Youngsters Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw form a great 1-2 for the years to come; the departure of Derek Lowe hurts, but if Hiroki Kuroda stays healthy, the first 3 spots will be set. It's the rest of the rotation that lacks much in the way of readily available talent; Randy Wolf, Jason Schmidt, and Brad Penny are all getting along in years and have lengthy injury histories, but if two of them can stay healty for any significant length of time, this could be a very potent rotation.
Around the Horn
C Russell Martin: .290/.380/.440, 15 HR, 15 SB. Martin's an incredible athlete who has 39 combined steals in the last two years while also posting 1270 ABs. When not catching, he can be seen stealing time at the hot corner; although he is 26, a power slippage last year should have manager Joe Torre cutting back on the youngster's playing time to keep him fresh.
1B James Loney: .310/.360/.490, 15 HR. Loney has a solid bat that is just short of excellent at the position that demands the most offense. If he steps up his D, though, he'll immediately be one of the better all-around players at the position.
2B Orlando Hudson: .290/.360/.390, 9 HR, 10 SB. The gloveman from Arizona finally landed a team very late in the offseason, pushing Blake DeWitt to a utility role - so, basically, it was a great deal for the Dodgers.
3B Casey Blake: .260/.320/.420, 15 HR. We don't really care for Casey. And we don't really understand why Ned Colletti traded for him. Or extended him. Besides the fact that he's an excellent general manager who's also responsible for the mess of injured pitchers collecting hefty paychecks. And Juan Pierre.
SS Rafael Furcal: .300/.360/.410, 7 HR, 20 SB. We think that Furcal's going to get some of his speed back, but it's admittedly a bet with high odds against. You hate to see core and leg injuries to speed guys, and at, 31, he's really got nowhere to go but down. Actually, is it too late to go up and change that SB number?
LF Manny Ramirez: .310/.420/.540, 35 HR. We've always loved Manny, and even though it didn't happen until he turned 37, we can't wait to see him have a full season bashing NL pitching.
CF Matt Kemp: .310/.370/.510, 25 HR, 25 SB. We have similar feelings toward the ridiculously-talented Kemp, who we hope (and, albeit with our rose colored glasses firmly on, think) will be a perennial 30-30 guy for as long as those kind of athletes can hold on to their skills.
RF Andre Ethier: .300/.380/.500, 20 HR. What an outfield. Just look at those numbers again. Ethier could significantly outplay our projection; we wouldn't be surprised. Granted, that has more to do with the fact that we're guessing than the fact that he's really good, but still.
From the Bump: Starters
RHP Chad Billingsley: 200 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 190 K, 80 BB. Billingsley lost time last year to a freak leg injury, and we've heard that he's a bit chubbier than expected this spring, but we think he'll be better than fine. As you can clearly see from our numbers. We like redundancy. And rambling.
RHP Hiroki Kuroda: 170 IP, 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 110 K, 35 BB. The Japanese import exceeded expectations last year, and if his elbow problems don't crop up again this year, he shoud post solid numbers again.
LHP Clayton Kershaw: 160 IP, 3.80 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 150 K, 75 BB. He's 21. Last year, then, he was 20. We're 20. Vin Scully called his curveball "Public Enemy #1." We're sad. Love the kid, though.
LHP Randy Wolf: 140 IP, 4.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 115 K, 55 BB. Wolf, at 32, has certainly lost a step, but he's still got talent. He just needs to stay healthy enough to use it. We'd use the old "copy and paste a preview for similar players trick" for the next guy, but it's overdone.
RHP Jason Schmidt: 100 IP, 5.50 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 45 BB. Schmidt had a couple of surprising ace-caliber years in San Francisco, but the last time he was an effective pitcher was 2006. And he's had more shoulder twinges already this season. F his life.