|Dodgers Offense Needs to Improve|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on May 06, 2012
This offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers were picked to finish third in NL West at best. Financial issues surrounding the team's ownership clouded a decent season last year, but the outlook heading into 2012 was still bleak.
Then Magic Johnson stepped in as one of the team's new owners, and the attitude of the club and fanbase completely changed.
Now, the Don Mattingly-led Dodgers are the surprise team in the league. The team is tied for the best record in the NL at 17-9 and doesn't appear to be slowing down. Los Angeles just completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals, who had the best record in the league coming into the series.
However, the team's pitching has been the main factor in their success, especially the starters. Dodgers starters are a combined 11-4 on the season.
Chris Capuano leads the way at 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA. The other two lefties, Ted Lilly and Clayton Kershaw, each have sub-2.00 ERAs. Chad Billingsley is also off to a good start, and the veteran Aaron Harang should get it together soon.
The bullpen has also been very good. Setup relievers Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen have provided the bridge to closer Javy Guerra. Guerra actually has blown two saves, so the team could have even more wins if he had converted.
Offensively, Kemp and Ethier have 26 and 28 RBIs, respectively. The next closest Dodger is A.J. Ellis with 10. Kemp also has 12 of the team's 24 home runs. In fact, only seven Dodgers have hit home runs this season.
This just shows that pitching truly does win ball games. If they can keep up the pace, the Dodgers can certainly be contenders.
Keep in mind, we're only through the first month so team aren't exactly scoreboard watching, but the Dodgers hold a 3.5-game lead of the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
Many analysts picked the Arizona Diamondbacks to repeat as NL West champions, especially since that team improved even more this offseason. But the D'Backs are just 14-13 out of the gate. They definitely can make a run, however.
The Dodgers just need to worry about playing their game. The problem the team may face is that opposing teams will just stop pitching to Kemp and Ethier and let the other players beat them. That's where James Loney, Juan Uribe, Mark Ellis and young shortstop Dee Gordon all need to step up.
Yes, the pitching has been great, but guys like Capuano and Lilly are bound to come back down to earth at some point. With a little run support though, they can still put wins on the board. Kershaw and Billingsley are the young studs, so the others just need to hold their own.
There's no doubt this team has been fun to watch in the early going. The league always loves when the Dodgers are a relevant team, since they have a great fanbase and are known throughout the country.
They have five months to continue their torrid April pace: Can they do it?