When the season started, the Los Angeles Dodgers only hope rested on a promise. “50 homeruns and 50 stolen bases,” Matt Kemp proudly proclaimed when he was snubbed of the National League MVP award in 2011. He worked harder than he had in any previous offseason and was on a torrid pace to start the season. His hamstring, however, could not keep up with his words and he has been out since May 13. This hasn’t stopped the Dodgers from keeping the best record in the majors and leading the NL West by four games as of June 15. Others in the lineup, strong pitching, as well as a lack of competition will help. Here are five reasons why they will stay on top.
This guy is the LeBron James of baseball. His combination of size, speed, and defensive ability make him unstoppable. Before his injury, he was slapping and slamming the ball into every gap in the field andthe bleachers. He will return eventually and continue where he left off by producing heavily every Triple Crown category, as he famously did last year. When he limped off the field, he was hitting .355 with 12 homeruns and 28 RBIs; those numbers will at least triple. Being named the captain of the NL in the Homerun Derby will provide another opportunity for Kemp to show why he will be the MVP and that he is the most powerful player in the majors. Kemp will also solidify the defense with his multiple Gold Gloves in center field. He can do it all. One place where I see his production maybe faltering is in the stolen base category, and he may not reach 50 or even 30 this season. But he doesn’t have to.
50 stolen bases? With his speed, this guy can double that. Gordon has been plagued this year by unrealistic expectations for his first full year in the majors, some fantasy “experts” predicted upwards of 80 stolen bases. He has been pressing a bit in the spotlight as the Dodger leadoff man for the next 10 years and it is seen in his low batting average and high strikeouts. In 56 games last year he only struck out 27 times; in 59 games this year, he’s at 48. But fantasy owners have started to drop him and I couldn’t be happier. Less pressure for him will mean more production and more focus on getting on base and into scoring position for the leading RBI man in the NL.
Who saw this coming? He almost has as many RBI’s as last year in less than half the games. Leading the NL with 55 RBIs, he has been solid in the absence of Kemp. His production will only rise when he will be hitting behind Kemp, with more guys in scoring position. If Kemp is LeBron, Ethier is Dwayne Wade, quietly producing and being one of the best players in the majors. He signed a huge contract that some said was stressing him out; now the lefty will swing even more freely and knock more balls into the all-you-can-eat right field bleachers.
The Pitching Staff
Last year’s NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw holds down the rotation and will only improve on his win total with his low ERA. Andrew Bynum without the attitude? Okay, I’ll stop. Chad Billingsley hasn’t lived up to the ace the Dodgers thought he would be a couple years ago, but he has had only about three or four bad starts this year. Some forget he was the starting pitcher for the NL in the All-Star game three years ago. His past two he has gone seven strong and got the win, his last game giving up only two hits. Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang have strong experience of production in the win column and can give the Dodgers a quality start every time out. The bullpen is held down by Kenley Jansen, who is strong in the closer role for this being his first year with the job.
The Rest of the NL West
My only concern is the Colorado Rockies, who have been without star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and know how to put up runs at Coors Field. They have also been known for late season runs, but they’re already 15 games back of the Dodgers. The San Diego Padres can’t hit or pitch and the Arizona Diamondbacks are coming back to reality after a dream season in 2011. That brings me to the second place team, the San Francisco Giants. A rotation of overpaid pitchers and a lineup overhyped hitters. Melky Cabrera has been the star, but I don’t see him having another month like he did in May where he racked up as many hits as Willie Mays. Buster Posey plays the catcher position tentatively and can’t rack up enough RBI’s to match Tim Lincecum’s ERA. If Matt Kemp is coming down the line and Posey has a chance to block the plate, no doubt he will side step and miss the tag. As the Dodgers are rushing towards the playoffs, the Giants and the rest of the NL West will take their spots behind as they have in the past and will in the future.Back to the Los Angeles Dodgers Newsfeed