The season was a succes and only the most cynic Dodger fan could say they did not enjoy the final two months of the season. We didn't get to the World Series but the season had plenty of highlights. Below is my minor writing about how the season went, but for a real in depth look at the season I'd suggest taking in Mike Scoscia's Tragic Illness breakdown.
1st Base - James Loney - All of the 25 and under crowd position players came into 2008 with high expectations and none of them delivered. Loney played the whole season and the results were nothing to write home about. He had one hot month in June propelled by a .380 BABIP and little power. One bright spot in the 2nd half was the reduction in double plays. In the 1st half he hit into 18 but only 7 in the second half. The hope was the Loney would develop into Mark Grace but he's far from that. Grace was a consistent 300 hitter with excellent plate discipline, and James has a way to go before he can lay claim to Grace's throne. Still we can't forget how important Loney's grand slam was in game of the playoffs. Who knows, without that shot we might still be looking at a post-season losing streak.
Future - Short term it looks like Loney. We can't live at 1st base in 2009 with the same production he displayed in 2008. 24 going on 25 he needs to step it up in 2009 and I expect him to. The Dodgers have a plethora of Giants playing 1st base in the rookie leagues but all of them have trouble making contact. Maybe Gallagher or Josh Bell will make the move from 3rd to 1st as neither are defensive stalwarts but then again both have much to prove from the offensive side to be taken seriously as a 1st baseman. Lambo looks like the best bet at the moment even if he is playing RF at the moment.
2nd Base - Jeff Kent proved once again that you can't buck history and became just another 40 year old 2nd baseman. He actually had a very strong 2nd half increasing his OPS+ by over 100 points but it wasn't enough. He should retire and make the HOF. Ned never should have given him that two year extension as he was the wrong player for this team. Blake DeWitt was a godsend in Sept when Kent went down. He posted a 910 OPS and played the position with aplomb.
Future - unlike 1st base, the Dodgers have plenty of candidates here. The best would probably be a healthy Tony Abreu but after missing 1 1/2 years who knows if he can handle the rigors of a starting gig or if he will even get a shot. With several options left he should still have plenty of time to make an impression. Top prospect Ivan Dejesus looks like he is being transitioned to 2nd base. Blake DeWitt might even get the gig if they sign or trade for a 3rd baseman. None of them will be able to replace Kent's offensive production but all of them have decent ceilings. A healthy Abreu could be very Hudson like with excellent defense combined with gap power and average offensive production for a 2nd baseman. Dejesus may not be ready yet but when he is ready we can look forward to a slashing hitter, with excellent plate discipline and a SS's range playing 2nd base. Should make an ideal number 2 hitter. The word is that the Dodgers are going to move DeWitt back to 3rd base but I think most of us would like to see him stay at 2nd if he can handle the position. The ability to take a walk once he returned from the minors was an interesting development. I think his ceiling is higher then most and can understand why Joe and company like him. Preston Mattingly anyone?
SS - For two months Furcal was just about the best player in baseball. Then he got hurt again and didn't surface until the postseason, where he hurt us more then he helped. Berroa was a stop gap who got way more at bats then he should have but actually was serviceable once Manny joined the team. Probably no Dodger took a bigger hit to their future status then Chin-Lung Hu who got some at bats early when Furcal went down. He was worse then awful and the fact that it was vision problems did little to medicate the pain of his performance. Even in AAA he never came close to producing his 2007 numbers and you have wonder if he will ever be able to defeat his ongoing vision problems and regain the confidence of Joe and company.
Future - You would think the future would be Hu but I have little faith that the Dodgers think he's the future. DeJesus was playing SS and still might be a viable option if he isn't moved to 2nd. Further down the Dodgers have Pedroza but everyone expects him to be moved off of SS and he at best only projects to be a utility player. However one player getting some play this year was the 2008 4th round pick Devaris Strange-Gordon who impressed in the rookie league.
3rd Base - Blake DeWitt started the season here and for two months did a solid job for a guy who had only played 1/2 a season of AA ball, and wasn't expected to make his major league debut until 2008 Sept or 2009. Then he hit the rookie wall and wasn't able to recover until he landed back in AAA. The scouts had told us for years that he was barely adequate defensively at 3rd base but when all was said and done he was one of the best defensive 3rd baseman in 2008. Was it a fluke? If not he certainly looks like a decent option at 3rd base. If it was then he will need to increase his offense to the levels he was displaying in April/May/Sept and not what we saw in June/July. Andy LaRoche really screwed the team's future by sucking when given a shot. He only got 59 at bats but did nothing with them. Given what he did after he was traded it was probably a good thing he was traded but because he failed for us we dealt for Casey Blake. Given his production the price seems excessive. He hit a few home runs played okay defense but really was not much help. 23 RBI's with 10 home runs in over 200 at bats with a .313 OBP. Yuck. Because of LaRoche's failure the Dodgers not only do not have him as their future 3rd baseman but he may have cost us the future of Carlos Santana who was the MVP of the California League. Considering how much verbiage has been wasted on Laroche on this site, his 2008 performance was very very disappointing.
Future - Blake DeWitt seems to be the guy. Further down we have Josh Bell and Gallagher who might have the offensive game to handle the position but probably not the defensive game. Pedro Baez headed into 2008 as a top prospect but ended it on the scrap heap after failing in the MWL to do anything of note.
Catcher - Russel Martin was a disappointment but only when taken into context with our expectations. As a catcher he did okay. As Russel Martin it was not enough. His 2nd half slugging collapse is worrisome, his defensive effort was worrisome. At the all-star game he was our Martin, by the end of the NLCS rumos were being spread that the Dodgers were off on him. Maybe but if so you don't trade your number one catching prospect and then bat him clean up in the NLCS if you are not expecting him to be a part of the future.
Future - Russel Martin is the future. Ellis might be able to forge out a career as a backup but it doesn't look like it will be in LA. Lucas May has been a disaster behind the plate and doesn't do much offensively to merit much of a look. Kensley Jansen made some progress this year in the MWL. I like him and expect further progress in 2009.
RF - Andre Ethier is on a roll. His final three month OPS looks like this 835/961/1.249. This is right, he finished Sept/Oct with an OPS of 1.249. Of course that was driven by a ridiculous BABIP of over .500. To put that into perspective his previous high for the season during any one month was .333. Luck or not Andre was putting his stamp on right field and looks to be ensconced there for the rest of the decade.
Future - Andre, but not far away is Andrew Lambo who battled the tough MWL before getting a late season promotion to AA. Free of the shackles of that tough offensive league, he cut loose and let it be known that he might have been the steal of the 2007 draft.
CF - Andruw Jones truly had one of the worse offensive season in major league history and sadly that is not hyperbole. I've been wrong before but I don't think I've ever been wrong with the magnitude that I was wrong on Andruw Jones. Luckily for us Matt Kemp proved able to play CF. Someday he will give us a whole season of July and when that happens we might have the best center fielder in the NL. We expect a lot from Matt Kemp and with good reason.
Future - Short term future it looks to be Matt Kemp unless somehow Andruw Jones makes a comeback. Long term it still might not be Kemp as he could easily grow out of the position but I'm hoping he can stay. Nothing down in the minors other then 4th outfielder types (Paul, Hoffman).
LF - Manny Ramirez was the bomb. Simply the greatest deadline deal ever and the most dynamic hitter we ever saw at the ravine for two months.
Future - ???? If it ain't Manny is it Pierre? Long term, maybe Lambo lands here.
Brad Penny entered the season as the ace and ended it in rehab and wondering if the Dodgers were going to pick up his option. Between the start and the finish he was lousy. His control left him, his ability to suppress home runs left him, and the results were predictable. He only made 17 starts after averaging 31 the previous 3 seasons.
Derek Lowe finished off his 4 year Dodger contract with his best season ever for the Dodger Blue.
Until Chad Billingsley imploded in the NLCS he had posted one of the best age 23 seasons ever for a LA Dodger. He increased his workload from 147 to 200 innings and fnished up with 200 strikeouts. The last pitcher to do that was Chan Ho Park in 2001. The only pitchers younger then Chad to get 200 k's were Ramon Martinez(22), Drysdale(22), and Don Sutton(21). Mighty fine company.
Hiroki Kuroda did everything we wanted and more. He got stronger in Sept when we needed and then delivered some big games in the postseason. Maybe the best contract Ned has ever inked.
Clayton Kershaw was 20 years old and put up a 100 ERA+. To put that in perspective he sits just below legends Fernando and Drysdale when it comes to best years by a 21 year old. From his knee buckling curve to his whiplike fastball this boy is the real deal. Screw Jake Peavy.
Others of note during the season were Maddux, Stults, and Park. Maddux was Maddux and did exactly what was expected. Which means that Stults could have done the same and saved us Mr. Watt. Park had quite a comeback season and in his 5 starts was excellent. His 2.16 ERA with 30 K's in 25 innings is a good reason why he's looking to start in 2009.
Future: Right now we can count on Chad, Kuroda, and Clayton. Jason Schmidt is not being counted on but he will be ready to pitch in spring after his 2nd surgery helped alleviate his pain. James McDonald will also put his hat in the ring and probably no one increased their stock higher with Joe and company then he did with his performances in late Sept and the postseason. It would appear that Brad Penny's option is a no brainer if he is considered healthy by the Dodger brass but we won't know for sure until next week. Seems that at least one free agent pitcher will need to be signed or be traded for if they don't pick up Penny's option. I haven't heard any offers to Lowe being made and that they expect CC to be out of their range. Do any of these pitchers have a future with the Blue(Oliver Perez, Peavy, Scott Olsen)?