2008 Los Angeles Dodgers Team Preview

2008 Los Angeles Dodgers Team Preview

Every year, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be a World Series caliber team on paper, but they repeatedly fall short. Will the addition of Joe Torre and his wealth of postseason experience alter this dynamic?

With the off-season additions of manager Joe Torre and CF Andruw Jones, Dodger nation is justifiably excited. Coming off a 4th place finish in the NL West with an 82-80 record last season, this franchise is in a decidedly optimistic mood. With Jones, the Dodgers have bolstered their outfield while improving or maintaining their infield. The starting rotation looks formidable and it appears that the only thing that can derail this team would be injuries.

2007 Standings - NL West W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA Pyth W Pyth L
Arizona Diamondbacks 90 72 0.556 - 50-31 40-41 712 732 79 83
Colorado Rockies 90 73 0.552 0.5 51-31 39-42 860 758 90 72
San Diego Padres 89 74 0.546 1.5 47-34 42-40 741 666 89 73
Los Angeles Dodgers 82 80 0.506 8.0 43-38 39-42 735 727 82 80
San Francisco Giants 71 91 0.438 19.0 39-42 32-49 683 720 77 85

Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Andruw Jones CF
Chin-Lung Hu SS
Nook Logan CF
Chan Ho Park SP
a
Departed Pos.
Mike Myers RP
Mike Lieberthal RP
Mark Hendrickson SP
Catcher
2007 Starter    Russ Martin
Projected 2008 Starter   Russ Martin

Stability behind the plate is important. Martin provides that stability as well as a mean stick at the plate. Coming off his first All-Star season, he will be looking to continue producing as both a batter and a runner. Not only did nearly all of his batting numbers improve last year, but so did his stolen base totals, going from 10 SB in 15 chances to 21 in 30. Catcher would appear to be a strength for this club going into the season.

First Base
2007 Starter   James Loney, Nomar Garciaparra
Projected 2008 Starter   James Loney

Comeback Player
Andruw Jones
If A-J rebounds, and the Dodgers win the division, he will be a hands down pick.
Disappointment Candidate
Andruw Jones
Uh, played as bad as he ever has and is being treated like a major acquisition.
The jury is still out on James Loney. However, if his first 446 AB are any indication, he'll be the crown jewel of this lineup soon enough. In portions of two seasons, he's already amassed some pretty impressive numbers. Last year, he collected 67 RBI and 15 HR to go along with 18 doubles and 4 triples, in only 344 AB! He'll need to improve on his 9 errors in only 93 games a year ago, but he makes first base a strong position for this club, as well.

Second Base
2007 Starter   Jeff Kent
Projected 2008 Starter   Jeff Kent

Despite his furious objection, Jeff Kent continues to age. His chances of being in the Opening Day lineup have been categorized as a 50-50 proposition due to a hamstring injury. It doesn't appear to be an injury that will affect his season, as cortisone injections apparently have solved the situation. Even with a body that hasn't been the model of health, his numbers have continued to look healthy. He batted .302 with 36 doubles and 20 HR at the ripe old age of 39 last season and is expected to put the same kind of numbers up this year. Kent's bat and veteran leadership will be invaluable for a young, talented team.


Jeff Kent
Third Base
2007 Starter   Wilson Betemit, Bill Mueller
Projected 2008 Starter   Nomar Garciaparra, Andy LaRoche

Yet another position for the Dodgers in which the projected starter(s) may not be on the active roster for Opening Day. Garciaparra is likely to be out with a broken hand, while LaRoche is out until at least mid-May with a torn right thumb ligament. Just turn to Tony Abreu, the resident utility infielder, right? Right, at least until he was put on the DL with a sore groin. This not only makes third base a weaker position for the club, as they will now turn to either Chin-Lung Hu, the backup infielder, or Blake DeWitt, a non-roster camp invitee, but it also hamstrings manager Joe Torre. He's being forced to make cuts at other positions to cover for this pileup of injuries.

Shortstop
2007 Starter   Rafael Furcal
Projected 2008 Starter   Rafael Furcal

Manager of the Year Candidate
Joe Torre
All eyes are on him, which means if the Dodgers do well, he is all the voters will see.
Breakout Player Candidate
Chad Billingsley
Seriously, his numbers sneak up on you.
Furcal did not have a career year last season, as many of his offensive numbers took a dip. He hit below his career average in doubles, triples, homeruns, and RBI, while scoring fewer runs and stealing fewer bases. The Dodgers don't expect that trend to continue, and his spring numbers support that idea. He's hitting .327 with 11 RBI and 5 triples to go along with 11 runs this spring. It appears that he may be over his nagging ankle injury that he dealt with last season. Expect him to rebound and perform at his 2006 level.

Outfield
2007 Starters   Juan Pierre, Luis Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp
Projected 2008 Starters   Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier

The overall rating of this group will most likely be determined by the performance of its best player in newly-acquired free-agent Andrew Jones. If he performs as we all have seen in the past, then we're looking at a solid outfield. If not, then we're looking at an average bunch. Juan Pierre is not a lock to start or even be an everyday player with the arrival of Jones. He's in a real battle with Andre Ethier for left field and with Ethier's strong spring, it looks like he may be spending a lot more time in the dugout. Of course, one can't overlook the young Kemp, who looks like an emerging stud. Dodgers fans just have to hope that he doesn't turn out to be their best outfielder this season.

Dodgers Fun Fact
James Loney hit more homeruns in 96 games with the Dodgers last year than he had hit in any full season of minor league ball.
Bench
Projected 2008 Bench Chin-Lung Hu, Blake DeWitt, Tony Abreu, Delwyn Young, Mark Sweeney, Jason Repko, Gary Bennett

One thing this bench cannot be categorized as is the deepest bench Joe Torre has ever had the pleasure to manage. Not to mention that injuries are eating into it. With Kent, Garciaparra, LaRoche, and Abreu all injured, this unit looks even more unsavory. Sweeney provides some veteran presence and a pinch-hitting option for Torre, but unless the underachieving Young can produce off the bench, this is a decided weakness for the club.

Starting Pitchers
2007 Starters Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Mark Hendickson, Brett Tomko, Randy Wolf, Hong-Chih Kuo
Projected 2008 Starters Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Esteban Loaiza

Brad Penny

This appears to be a deep rotation, with all five projected starters capable of being very effective. Penny enjoyed one of his best years as a pro, utilizing the friendly pitching confines of Dodger Stadium. He pitched more innings (208) last year than ever before, while compiling the lowest ERA (3.03) of his career. Lowe also had a productive year, as he posted his highest strikeout total and came within 2 outs of putting up his third-straight 200 inning season. The Dodgers also hope that young Billingsley continues to develop in order to solidify the top of their rotation. The quality obviously drops off with Kuroda and Loaiza (who have posted 5.03 and 4.20 ERA this spring, respectively), but they do have great potential. Loaiza has shown flashes during his career, and Kuroda was considered to be right below Dice-K's level in Japan.

Relief Pitchers
2007 Relievers Danys Baez, Takashi Saito, Jonathon Broxton, Joe Beimel
Projected 2008 Relievers Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel, Jonathon Broxton, Yhency Brazoban, Scott Proctor, Hong-Chih Kuo

Besides the bench, this could be the weakest part of the team, and for similar reasons. Injuries in the infield have caused Torre to release some relievers that may have stayed otherwise, such as Mike Myers and Rudy Seanez. Granted, these two guys aren't world-beaters, but depth is a sought-after commodity of any bullpe,n and this one doesn't have it. Torre has already said that he will likely carry only 11 pitchers on the active roster. This will be a major problem if the offensive injuries continue and more pitchers aren't brought on board. Saito has been named the closer, but has had a horrible spring and may be replaced by Broxton in the not-too-distant future.

Outlook for the Season

If this team can shake the injury bug by late May, they will be tough to beat in the NL West. They have their work cut out for them against the Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks, but could easily be the top dog in the division when September rolls around. If they can get their hitters off the DL and onto the field, they will have an extremely competitive lineup. If the rotation performs as it should, and depth is added to the bullpen, there's no reason to think they won't be in just about every game they play. My prediction for the 2008 Dodgers: 1st place finish in the West.


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