2010 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Wednesday, March 24, 2010 4:25 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 95-67, 1st in NL West. Pythagorean record of 99-63.
Key Additions: OFs Reed Johnson and Garret Anderson, IF Jamey Carroll
Key Losses: 2B Orlando Hudson, SPs Randy Wolf and Jon Garland, OF Juan Pierre, IF Mark Loretta
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 82-80, 3rd in NL West. CHONE – 83-79, tie 1st. CAIRO – 84.6-77.6, 2nd.

Pitching: 2009 – 3.80 FIP (21st in MLB), 3.83 for starters, 3.74 for relievers
2010 – The Dodgers decided not to offer Wolf arbitration, then chose not to sign a replacement, leaving the rotation a little thin. LA has Vicente Padilla penciled in as its fourth starter, while the fifth slot is still a competition between several shaky candidates. The pen has some issues as well, but the Dodgers do have the best closer in the NL in Jonathan Broxton.
Hitting: 2009 – .331 wOBA (12th in MLB)
2010 – LA has one of the top outfields in baseball, led by the dynamic Matt Kemp. On the other hand, the Dodgers are waiting for Russell Martin and James Loney to realize the potential they showed earlier in their big league careers.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of -0.1 (13th in MLB)
2010 – Manny Ramirez is Manny Ramirez in left field, and Andre Ethier has a -17.6 UZR in right over the past three years. Replacing Orlando Hudson with Ronnie Belliard at second base probably doesn't create as big of a defensive drop-off as most people would think.

Reasons to Watch
1. Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw walked 4.79 batters per nine innings last season. And that pretty much concludes the critical statements you can make about the left-hander's age 21 season. Kershaw's 9.74 K/9 ratio ranked seventh in MLB, his 0.37 HR/9 ratio ranked second, and his .198 batting average against ranked first. Even with all of the walks, Kershaw posted the eighth-best FIP in baseball in 2009, dominating hitters with a mid-90s fastball and a curve Vin Scully once called "Public Enemy No. 1." If Kershaw stays the way he is, he'll be a great pitcher; if he figures out how to cut down on the walks and increase his pitch efficiency, he'll be one of the best.
2. Martin and Loney: In 2007, Russell Martin hit .293/.374/.469, while James Loney (after arriving in the big leagues in June), put up a line of .331/.381/.538. It looked like Dodgers fans could count on having an elite catcher-first base duo for years to come, but things have taken a bit of a sour turn the past couple of years. Both players' power output has nosedived, as evidenced by their sub-.400 slugging percentages last season. Martin was a well below-average hitter in 2009, while Loney was about average, which is not what you're looking for from your first baseman. Both players are young -- Martin less so due to a heavy workload behind the plate -- so it's too early to write them off, but the Dodgers sure would like to see these guys hitting like it's 2007 again.
3. The McCourts: The bitter divorce proceedings of owner Frank McCourt and wife/former team CEO Jamie have been played out in public over the past several months, leaving the Dodgers caught in the web of their "parents'" bickering. No matter what anyone says, you can bet the team's passive offseason was not a coincidence, as the organization's financial situation has destabilized rapidly. It would take far too long to recount every twist and turn this drama has taken, but suffice it to say there is a lot of turmoil in Dodgertown, and that nobody knows how the whole thing will end up being resolved. We'll all have to stay tuned.


Paint By Numbers: No pitcher with at least 50 IP last season was anywhere close to Jonathan Broxton in the FIP category. Broxton's mark of 1.97 was 36 points ahead of Zack Greinke. Big Jon, whose average fastball of 97.7 mph was 1.1 mph faster than anybody else's, struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings. Rafael Soriano was second at 12.13. ... It's now pretty well accepted that over time, players will perform at about the same level as normal in key situations, and that the idea of "clutch" is based largely on luck and small sample sizes. Still, it's hard to ignore what Andre Ethier has done the past two seasons. In 2009, he came up with six walk-off hits, four of which were home runs. He had three other walk-offs, including a homer, in 2008. In high-leverage situations (ones in which the at-bat will have the greatest impact on the outcome of the game), Ethier recorded an OPS of 1.138 last season and 1.053 the year before.

Blog Jog: Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce dutifully recaps the latest developments in the McCourt saga. ... Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman monitors the battle for LA's No. 5 starter position and wonders anxiously, "Could it really be Russ Ortiz?" ... True Blue LA examines the Spring Training performances of some key players and looks at fifth starter candidate and Rule 5 draftee Carlos Monasterios. ... Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness goes over some options if the Dodgers choose to acquire a left-handed hitter and expresses relief about averting the Angel Berroa crisis.

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