I started a website, Bullpen Banter, with a few buddies from Minorleagueball.com, an SBN affiliate. We had a round table chat about the Dodgers and thought we should share it with you and get your feed back. We think there is some good content here. Enjoy
Michael Herrick: The Dodgers have a good young offensive core with Andre Ethier, James Loney, Russell Martin, and Matt Kemp. I did say Russell Martin in there as I think he'll bounce back just fine in 2010 as long as Joe Torre doesn't ride him into the ground. Kemp is a star in centerfield both with the bat and the glove. Blake DeWitt is likely just a place holder at 2B for the time being, he doesn't project to be a full time regular. Manny Ramirez didn't hit well after his suspension, I'm curious to see what his numbers will look like this year. Casey Blake had a good year with the bat and a better year with the glove, though I would expect a regression from the 4.2 WAR he posted in 2009. His defensive numbers at 3B were the best in his career, but that doesn't usually happen at age 35. I'm worried about Rafael Furcal, his speed seems to be leaving him and his power has been down as well. His last two full seasons he posted wOBA's of .311 and .316, the only that saved him last year was much improved defensive numbers.
The Dodgers have two immensely talented starting pitchers in Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. Both have ace potential and are the kind of talent you want to have fronting your rotation. Hiroki Kuroda is a solid #3 starter, pitching well in both his seasons in the US. He improved his K rate by over a K/9 last year and dropped his BB rate a bit as well. He's posted FIP's of 3.59 and 3.58 since coming to the majors and should be ready to deliver another good year for the Dodgers. I'm not a fan of Vicente Padilla in the 4th spot in the rotation, he didn't pitch that well last year. James McDonald is ready to take a rotation spot and should be league average or better if given the chance.
The Dodgers have a great bullpen, which could be important depending on how the 4th and 5th starters pitch this year. The Dodgers have a team that can compete for the division title with a wealth of young pitchers in the farm system to use in trade if need be.
Al Skorupa: This is a talented team, but I'm not sure they have enough to win the division. They have a great core, but Ned Colletti has done a bad job surrounding that core with talent and fitting the pieces together. Colletti has thrown away value in trade after trade. He's also continued to give bad contracts to mediocre players. Its a shame, since I can't help but think a better GM could have taken this team to a World Series in the last couple years - and probably without costing this team so much of its future in trades (Carlos Santana, Josh Bell, etc...).
Manny Ramirez simply isn't that good a player anymore. He's old, his bat has declined and his defense is atrocious. Even in his last three full years in Boston he only produced good but not great win totals of 4.3, 3.9 and 1.0. 2.8 WAR this year. He provided less value in 2009 than players like David Dejesus and Ryan Sweeney, while exactly matching the production of Tony Gwynn and Angel Pagan. Outside of a rejuvenated Manny in the second half of 2008, this profiles as a player entering the tail end of his decline phase.
For the Dodgers to be anything more than an 80-85 win team they are going to need the young hitters to keep getting better and their two young Aces to take another step forward. Its very possible, but my money is still on the Rockies.
JD Sussman: All of the Chad Billingsley bashing was utterly ridiculous. Yes, he struggled a little, but in reality he is still a very good pitcher. His one pathetic month (July) his strand rate dipped to 54%, otherwise, his xFIP was very constant last year hovering between 3.67 and 4.42. The only negative indicator was a swoon in K/BB in the summer months, but that has been fairly normal for him. When it is all said and done, expect him to settle in in ace territory.
I've got the Dodgers finishing second, but the problem is that they likely don't have enough starting pitching. I think James McDonald could be an important player for them this season, he can miss bats he just can't afford to miss the strike zone too.
We've also got a review of the team's top moves, worst moves, and two prospects to watch. Stop by and let us know what you think.