30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers Previews

Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers – National League West

2009 Record: 95-67, 1st Place in National League West, Lost in National League Championship Series to Philadelphia Phillies (4-1)

2009 Review: The Los Angeles Dodgers finished the 2009 season with 95 wins and taking the National League West Championship. The Dodgers finished the 2009 season leading the National League in hits, batting average and on-base percentage. The ranked in the top five in runs scored, triples, stolen bases, walks and OPS. The Dodgers were led by Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, each hit over 26 home runs and each had over 100 runs batted in. They were anchored by Rafael Furcal, who scored 92 runs with 165 hits.

In terms of pitching, the Dodgers finished with the most wins in the National League, the top era for a pitching staff, top in hits allowed and runs allowed. The pitching staff was also anchored by closer Jonathon Braxton with 36 saves and a 2.61 era. The setup men, Ramon Troncoso, Ronald Belisario and Guillermo Mota all pitched in over 60 games for Joe Torre’s bullpen and all had an earned run average under 3.50.

The Dodgers started the season 13-0 at home. However on May 7, it was announced that Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for the positive test of PEDs. They stayed in first place for much of the regular season and in October, they clinched their division victory. It was their second straight division championship. The last time this feat was accomplished by the Dodgers was in 1977 and 1978, both seasons losing in the World Series.

In the Divisional Playoffs, the Dodgers swept the St. Louis Cardinals in three games by a total of seven runs. In the National League Championships, the Dodgers faced the Phillies and lost 4-1, losing to the Phillies in the NLCS for the second straight season.

Key Transactions since 2009:
Losses:
Juan Castro – After the 2009 season, the light hitting Castro declared his free agency. As a utility player that can play all the infield positions except for first base, batted .277 in 57 games. He is a versatile player that was well-liked in the clubhouse and who has signed with the Phillies as their utility player.

Jon Garland – At the end of the 2009 season, the Dodgers declined the team option for Garland, making him a free agent. He was obtained in 2009 from the Diamondbacks via trade and during the stretch run, Garland was 3-2 with a 2.72 era. He did not pitch in the post-season for the Dodgers in 2009. His salary in 2009 was over $6 million.

Orlando Hudson – The Dodgers refused to offer arbitration to Hudson, making him a free agent. In 149 games in 2009, the All-Star hit .283 with 35 doubles and a Gold Glove Award. He did have a late season slump that led to his benching that was a main reason for the non-tendering of arbitration. Hudson signed a contract with the Twins for one year at $5 million.

Mark Loretta – The other backup infielder for the Dodgers, Loretta retired and joined the front office of the San Diego Padres.

Eric Milton – After missing the 2008 season, Milton was signed by the Dodgers for 2009 and started the year in the minor leagues. After being recalled, he pitched to a 2-1 record before having surgery to remove a herniated disc in his back. He was not offered a new contract.

Guillermo Mota – After his second stint with the Dodgers as a middle reliever, Mota became a free agent after the 2009 season. In the 2009 season, he had a 3-4 record, with a 3.44 era in 61 games (65.1 innings). Mota was one of the setup men for Closer Jonathon Braxton and has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Juan Pierre – The outfielder was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the 2009 season. He played an important role in 2009, taking over in left field during the 50 game suspension of Manny Ramirez. During 2009, Pierre hit .308 with 30 stolen bases. A fourth outfielder making almost $10 million per year was too expensive for the Dodgers, who have agreed to pay for almost $11 million in the next two years to the White Sox for Pierre’s contract.

Randy Wolf – In another questionable move, Wolf was not offered arbitration by the Dodgers and was granted free agency. In 2009, Wolf was 11-7 with a 3.23 era. He pitched in 214 innings and had a WHIP of 1.10. He was the top of the rotation for the Dodgers and was signed by the Brewers to lead their rotation.

Other Losses from the 2009 team includes: Jamie Hoffmann, Will Ohman, Jason Schmidt, Jim Thome

Gains:
Jamey Carroll – Carroll was signed to compete and possible take over the second base opening in 2010. The infielder hit .276 for the Cleveland Indians in 93 games, with an on-base percentage of .355. He is a career .273 hitter with little power. If he does not win the starting position, he will be a utility player in 2010.

Reed Johnson – Johnson was signed as a reserve outfielder for the Dodgers. He had a .255 batting average for the Cubs in 2009, with only 4 home runs.

Other Additions to the Dodgers through minor league contracts: Alfredo Amezaga, Luis Ayala, Brian Barton, Angel Berroa, Scott Dohmann, Seth Etherton, Eric Gagne, Jay Gibbons, Brian Giles, Nick A. Green, Justin Knoedler, John Koronka, Justin Miller, Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz, Juan Perez, Timo Perez, Michael Restovich, Argenis Reyes, Josh Towers

2010 Preview: With the very public divorce of their owner, Frank McCourt, the salary for the 2010 Dodgers has become a potential issue. When players such as Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf are not offered arbitration, those that bleed Dodger blue have concerns. An example of Dodger cost cutting has trickled down to their scouting department, where a scout in New York that has 70 years in baseball had his salary cut from $18,000 to $8,000. With the cost cutting, the Dodgers will need a lot of luck to be in contention for the National League West.

The Dodgers have five young players that are up and coming stars; Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Jonathon Braxton. However, five players do not consist of an entire team. Manny Ramirez is returning, but announced before he even put on his spring training uniform that this would be his last season in Los Angeles. His play is a question mark, as he will be 38 years old, but is also playing for his (potentially) last contract. His fielding will probably continue to decrease, but his offense should return to form, at least the Dodgers hope. The infield is adequate, but does not have the potential to be spectacular. In the end, with the loss of players such as Juan Pierre and Orlando Hudson, we shall see if anyone steps up and fills in for their losses.

The loss of Randy Wolf will leave the Dodgers with only three sure starting pitchers heading into spring training. Billingsley will head the rotation with Kershaw behind him. The third pitcher in the rotation should be Hiroki Kuroda. Vincente Padilla should compete for a spot in the rotation and the last spot is up for grabs in spring training. The bullpen, even with the loss of Mota should be just as solid as it was in 2009, barring injuries.

In the National League West, the Diamondbacks and the Rockies are both greatly improved when compared to 2009. Unless the Dodgers ownership issues with finances are resolved, they will not make significant upgrades to their team and will not overcome either of the two teams mentioned and will miss the playoffs in 2010.

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