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What Must Be Done

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For the rest of the 2007 season, these are your Los Angeles Dodgers. While small improvements might float down the waiver wire, the Dodgers are going to be unable to add an impact player the rest of the way. This is in no way Ned Colletti's fault. The only real impact player that could have been had was Mark Teixeira, and as I covered before, it's probably not in the Dodgers best interests to swap James Loney for him.

Unfortunately, the flaws the Dodgers have now are going to stick with them the rest of the year. While starting pitching was originally thought to be the Dodgers greatest strength, it's now arguably their greatest weakness. Brad Penny and Derek Lowe are currently baseball's fifth best tandem in the rotation in terms of VORP, but can they keep it up? If they both regress to the high threes, low fours ERAs that were predicted for them this season, it means that they'll be fairly ineffective pitchers in the second half. Chad Billingsley seems to be two entirely different pitchers from start to start, and Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson round out the rotation. The Dodger bullpen is about as good as you can hope for, with two great arms in Saito and Broxton leading a cavalcade of middle relief, but you can't count on middle relief for anything at this stage.

If the Dodgers are going to win this year, the offense is going to have to make up for the woes that we have in the pitching staff, and for that to happen, two things need to be done.

First, callup Andy LaRoche. Sadly, this plan was a lot more applicable yesterday before LaRoche tweaked his back yesterday, and all we can do is hope for a quick recovery. I've been hammering this point home for the last month, and it still applies. LaRoche is by far the most talented hitter in our system right now. Despite sputtering along for the first three months, he's now hitting .309/.393/.597 as a 23 year old in AAA with more walks than strikeouts. This is way above and beyond knocking the door and he needs to be playing every day. With Wilson Betemit out the door, LaRoche is far and away the most talented third baseman in the Dodger organization. I do realize that you can't shelve the most popular player in the organization in Nomar, but if the Dodgers want to win, sacrifices have to be made. The jump from Nomar's pathetic bat to LaRoche's is far and away the best offensive improvement the Dodgers can make, and it's the first step to being competitive again. It seems like a plan that's more likely for success than "pray Nomar's current hot streak keeps going the rest of the way."

The second big thing that can be done is at the very least doing away with Juan Pierre's consecutive games streak. While I can at least pretend that the Dodgers might bench a woefully underperforming player signed to a two year contract, it's not nearly as reasonable to expect the Dodgers to sit down a guy they signed for five years that's been performing about as well as could be expected. Simply rotating Juan Pierre out of the lineup every few days will give the Dodgers far more opportunities to get Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp into the same lineup. On a related note, gradually reducing Luis Gonzalez's at bats while he performs his inevitable regression (there's a reason I refuse to call him anything but Luis Gonzalez) for more spicy Kemp/Ethier action will be a big help.

With these changes, the Dodgers end up with a lineup that looks something like this, which if you ask me, is pretty formidable.

SS Furcal
1B Loney
C  Martin
2B Kent
CF Kemp
LF Gonzalez
3B LaRoche
RF Ethier

I realize that I'm not saying anything new here, but if the Dodgers are going to make the playoffs this year, they're going to need to out mash their opponents more often than not. With the Dodgers projected starting rotation, the relatively weak lineup the Dodgers had at the beginning of the year was okay. Not anymore. The road to the playoffs is going to need to come through the offense, and running out a weak lineup is not going to cut it. The changes I am suggesting would be very hard to do, and would not be popular, but it's simply what must be done.