Madison Bumgarner may only play in two World Series games, but he'll be the key to whether the Giants win a third title in five years or the Royals bring a long-desired crown to Kansas City. Read More.
* Projected Record is a formula that takes projected team OPS, starters ERA and relievers ERA into account in order to get a projected runs scored and runs allowed per game. Those figures are then inserted into the Pythagorean record formula.
The Dodgers waited out Manny Ramirez, controversially re-signed Rafael Furcal, kept Casey Blake and even added Orlando Hudson. They also shed Andruw Jones and Jeff Kent retired into the Texas night. All six of these offseason events were net gains for the Los Angeles offense in various ways.
In more of a peripheral move, Nomar Garciaparra departed to the A's via free agency and the Dodgers replaced him with Mark Loretta.
Ned Colletti, however, spent far less of his resources upgrading the mound. Derek Lowe and Brad Penny are both gone, as is reliever Takashi Saito. Other than bringing back both Randy Wolf and Guillermo Mota, the Dodgers are hoping some (Jason Schmidt) get healthy and others (James McDonald) can advance from within.
No Dumb Questions
1. How steep will Manny's drop from his incredible August, September and October end up being?
2. Is Chad Billingsley prepared to anchor the rotation?
3. Can Rafael Furcal stay healthy?
4. Will one or more of Kemp, Ethier and Loney become legitimate stand-alone stars this season?
5. Is it permissible for someone raised hating the Dodgers to actually like this version of the club?
(Gratuitous sidebar: I couldn't tolerate any of the teams that had Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, Mike Scioscia or Eric Gagne featured and I also was raised to take some pride in Juan Marichal hitting Johnny Roseboro over the head with a bat, but there are a lot of things to like about the Dodgers these days. Manny Ramirez has always been my favorite right-handed hitter of all-time, their young core has the potential to become great, simultaneously in Paul O'Neill (Andre Ethier) and Eric Davis (Matt Kemp) type of ways and we live in the 'MLB Extra Innings Vin Scully Gets Returned To The Rest Of America' Era. I can't help but follow the Dodgers in the ways I would for a team I actually like.)
It is fairly uncommon for the Dodgers to be built around their lineup rather than their pitching staff, but that is clearly the case this season as they are heavily invested at every position. They don't have a weak spot at any position and there are several NL West rivals that would be content starting Blake DeWitt and Juan Pierre, who will be lucky to get one or two starts per week.
Manny makes players that hit around him significantly better and he is in an ideal situation to bestow benefit to young players like Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney.
Blake's numbers are inferior to what most teams would like out of a third baseman, but he's a steadying veteran influence in all of the ways Kent was not.
The Dodgers scored 4.62 runs per game after the All-Star break and even though Manny's numbers are bound to come down at least slightly, the maturation process of those three twenty-somethings listed above, along with healthy seasons from Furcal, Hudson and Russell Martin should make that run production a baseline number.
On the mound, the Dodgers will need Billingsley to once again be one of the most overlooked young starters in the game, plus another sub-4.00 ERA from Hiroki Kuroda. Clayton Kershaw, who just turned 21, is the wildcard. He finished the season strong and had settled in nicely at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw has the potential to extend his innings out to 150, with as many strikeouts and an ERA a touch below 4.00.
What Will Likely Happen
The Dodgers don't have enough reliable arms to lock into the postseason, but they only need a few things to go right with those arms in order to repeat as NL West champions. The Diamondbacks may have more upside and better balance on the mound and at the plate, while the Giants are the Bizarro Dodgers with high quality pitching and no hitting, but I think both clubs will be on the outside looking in at the Dodgers in October.
Joe Torre is the right manager at the right stage of his managerial career to keep this ballclub together and will foster the young talent. I've never been a big fan of how he manages bullpens, but the Dodgers have enough depth in Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Mota and Cory Wade to overcome any misuse.
Predicting Their Season With A Movie Trailer
- Chris Reina is the executive editor of RealGM.com