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The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

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"Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start"

Bruce Springsteen, The Promised Land

After waiting through what seemed like an eternity through spring training (it was actually only seven weeks), baseball's glorious day is finally here. It's time to keep score for real. The Dodgers open defense of their 2008 National League West title today at 4:05pm in San Diego. The Dodgers, as they are built, are certainly capable of capturing the flag for a second straight year. Here's a group of predictions from around the baseball world:

Source Record Div
Baseball Prospectus 92-70 1st
Keith Law, ESPN 88-74 1st
Sports Illustrated 88-74 1st
18 of 20 other ESPN writers --- 1st
The Hardball Times --- 1st
9 of 12 SI writers --- 1st

While it appears the Dodgers are in fact the favorites to repeat as NL West champs, the Dodgers haven't won the division in back-to-back seasons since 1977-1978.

Another tough road to hoe is today's mound opponent, Jake Peavy. While the Padres may easily be the worst team in the division, Peavy is a code the Dodgers have a tough time cracking. Of the last 15 times Peavy has started against the Dodgers, the Padres have won 14. Peavy himself is 11-0 with a 2,00 ERA in that span, striking out 98 while only allowing 97 baserunners. For more analysis of Peavy and his Dodger counterpart, Hiroki Kuroda, be sure to check out Brendan Scolari's excellent breakdown here.

Here's the 25-man roster available to the Dodgers for today's game in San Diego (thanks to Diamond Leung for the news yesterday from San Francisco):

Catchers (2):
Russell Martin, Brad Ausmus

Infielders (7):
James Loney, Orlando Hudson, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz, Blake DeWitt

Outfielders (4):
Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre

Starting Pitchers (5):
Hiroki Kuroda, Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, James McDonald

Relievers (7):
Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Guillermo Mota, Cory Wade, Will Ohman, Ramon Troncoso, Ronald Belisario

For the Dodgers to get to The Promised Land, they will need to field this lineup or something close to it quite often in 2009:

Furcal SS
Hudson 2B
Manny LF
Ethier RF
Martin C
Loney 1B
Kemp CF
Blake 3B
Kuroda P

Box Score | Gameday