Today here at ranting and raving, it's all about America's past time.
Andre is ready, are YOU?
I thought so. Well worry not. In the bleak time leading up to the glory that is opening day, I'll fill you in on all you need to know. Starting of course with the only team that matters-The Dodgers.
It was a tough year for the Dodgertown faithful, after a promising beginning to the season, the Dodgers could only offer another NLCS defeat at the hands of the Phillies. (which only gives me another reason to hate all Philthy sports teams) Dodger fans are forgiving people and the focus has now shifted to this coming season.
The primary concerns for the Dodgers coming into spring training has got to be the pitching staff. It was a solid unit through the beginning of last season, but after the all-star break it fell apart.
Yea that's right. We're looking at you Billingsley.
He was the main culprit of some bad pitching after the all-star break and it seemed like he wanted why he SHOULDN'T have been selected to the all-star team in the first place. But alas, he wasn't alone.
EXHIBIT A: JOHNATHAN BROXTON
Broxton was also total crap after the break, and of all the pitchers a team needs to be successful, the closer is arguably the most important. That being said, towards the end of the season every time he came out on the mound I found myself groaning and preparing for the worst.
EXHIBIT B: HIROKI KURODA
Now granted, Kuroda was bothered by injury a lot last season, but even when he was healthy he wasn't quite himself. The game he pitched against the Phillies in the NLCS is perfect proof. That was one of those games that makes you fell physically ill.
But what about the coming season?
The first matter of business is for the Dodgers to go out and get at least two STARTING pitchers. That means that if I see a James McDonald starting I'm going to pop a cap in someone. The one thing that frustrates Dodger fans more than anything is the management's inactivity in the free agent market. The divorce of the McCourts doesn't help matters, and certainly all the players that are coming up on arbitration isn't helping either.
As for the pitchers already on staff, look for one man to be on the mound come April.
You should all know him well by now (I talk about him all the time it feels like.)
Kershaw was the kid that could in 2009, going 8-8 with an ERA of 2.79 in 30 starts. His crowing glory was a killer curve ball that according to wikipedia is, "a 71-77 MPH curveball with a hard 1-to-7 trajectory (from the hitter's perspective)." It's such a threat that Vin Sculley dubbed it "public enemy number one" and earning him as many Sandy Koufax comparisons as he could handle. To top it off,
He's only 21 years old.
The Dodgers are going to need Kershaw to go beyond the curveball however, and develop his other pitches and learn to variate the speeds on them. He often fell victim to hitters locking in on his pitches about three times through the lineup and exposing them. He has all the makings of one of those one-in-a-million aces, but he still has a way to go.
Look for the Dodger pitching to be solid again, but if they want to bring L.A. the pennant it wants so dearly they need to sign more muscle and Kershaw is going to have to improve even more.
Enough about the pitching now, what about the infield?
The great bearded one knows, and he is willing to share.
The Dodger infield was solid all year, committing very few errors. It was also the scene of one of the bigger surprises of the season in second baseman Ronnie Belliard. James Loney was a stellar fielder as always, but they need him to put up big numbers with a bat like he did in 2007. At second base Blake Dewitt is expected to split time with veteran journeyman Jamey Carroll. Third base saw Casey Blake put up excellent numbers batting and solid fielding.
Now, to the outfield.
Ignoring the whole Rhianna-Matt Kemp thing, the outfield was probably the best of all the Dodger positions. Matt Kemp was a stud in center field in 2009, and he put up HUGE numbers with a bat as well. In right there was ANDRE ETHIER (who's name must always be typed in all caps because of his epic stature.) who was by far the best thing since sliced bread.
Either is one of those players that you would hate if he played for another team, but since he plays for your team you just laugh crazily as opposing pitchers get pwned by his skill.
Andre was a key cog in the 2009 Dodgers, hitting .272 with a career best 31 home runs and 106 RBIs, not to mention 4 walk-off home runs which is the most by any major leauge player since 1974.
What has your right fielder done lately?
And then there was left field.
2009 saw Man-Ram get a well known 50 game suspension for juicing. When he came back, he wasn't the hitter he once was and he struggled seeing the ball. Manny was never known for his fielding, but he sufficed. The real star of left field was actually his replacement, speedster Juan Pierre (who's now with the white sox.)
So, what can we expect from the Dodgers in 2010?
I expect a lot of the same, unless pitching is signed. I see Ethier and Kemp continuing to improve and Kershaw emerging as the #1 man of the rotation. There's always the possibility that the Dodgers get past the NLCS where they've faltered the past two years, and if they're ever going to go all the way, don't be surprised if this is the year.