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The Baseball Notebook


June 18, 2010 2:32 PM

Twin Titles In Hollywood?

The city of Los Angeles is celebrating, as the Lakers brought home a championship last night. The Dodgers have been knocking on the door of doing it in baseball the last two years and are tied for first again in 2010. So let's take a look at Joe Torre's crew and see what their long-term chances on as they make a visit to Boston tonight. A Los Angeles team visiting the Hub this weekend is just what this series, already filled with storylines about Manny's return, and also Torre's first trip back to Fenway since he managed the Yankees, needed to juice it up.

Since the Dodgers play in a park that favors the pitcher, that obviously affects our view of the stats. Given that, I see a team that is relatively dependent on offense rather than arms to win. Manny is still putting up numbers, but he's no longer the straw that stirs the drink (with apologies to Reggie Jackson for taking his line). You have to go to the other corner of the outfield to find the new man in L.A. Andre Ethier is the go-to guy here like Kobe Bryant is on the basketball court. Ethier is on base over 40 percent of the time and slugs .619, a good number in any park and you wonder what he'd do in a true hitters' haven.

Ethier and Ramirez get plenty of help, especially when it comes to getting on base. James Loney, Russell Martin, Casey Blake and Blake DeWitt are all consistent. As is whomever's playing shortstop, be it Rafael Furcal or Jamey Carroll. And while Matt Kemp's OBP is poor, he hits for good power--a .459 slugging percentage is good anywhere and it's certainly good playing at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles is not going to have problems scoring enough runs to win.

Will they get the pitching? It's possible, but it needs some improvement. Clayton Kershaw is solid at the top, but still young. Hiroki Kuroda is a steady #2. Chad Billingsley has struggled a bit--nothing overtly terrible, but now he'll miss a couple weeks with a strained groin. Torre is left to turn to unknowns like John Ely and Carlos Montaserios, who gets the ball tonight in the Fens. The bullpen is similarly top-heavy, with Jonathan Broxton being fantastic at closer, but the setup crew being awful beyond Hong-Chih Kuo. It's frankly amazing to me that in a tough division, Torre still has his team tied for the lead. It reminds me of his Yankee team in 2005 when he patched together a rotation around Mike Mussina and the castoffs, with Mariano backing everything up at the end.

Los Angeles really needs to make a deal for more starting pitching if they want to win the whole thing. Given owner Frank McCourt's divorce problems, adding payroll isn't likely, meaning someone like Cliff Lee isn't likely. That means Torre needs everyone on staff to kick it up a notch. He's a good enough manager to scrape into the playoffs with the current staff, but come October they to come up aces. 

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