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2006 Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Preview

Los Angeles Dodgers Predictions – NL WEST

OVERVIEW:

In 2005, the Dodgers came in fourth in the very weak NL West. They decided to make a run for it this season by picking up high profile players. But first they had to find someone to replace former manager Jim Tracy and former GM Paul DePodesta. After they hired Ned Colletti as GM and Grady Little as manager, the team was ready to be transformed.

PITCHING:

Traditionally, Dodger teams have been built on pitching. Last year’s club did not perform like a club dependent on great hurlers. They’ve added two starters, four and five guys, in order to improve upon their team ERA of 4.38 (12th in the NL) and opposing teams batting average of .263.

Derek Lowe is the Dodger’s ace, but he did not pitch like one last season, going 12-15 with a 3.61 ERA. His sinker is good, but he can be inconsistent and immature.

Brad Penny (7-9. 3.90 ERA) may eventually become this club’s number one starter. He’s had biceps problems but appears to be healthy now. When he’s feeling well his fastball and curve are extremely tough to hit.

Odalis Perez (7-8, 4.56 ERA), Brett Tomko (8-15, 4.48) and Jae Seo (8-2, 2.59) round out the rotation.

For this team to succeed, they need every one of these players to have solid years. They do not have a dominant hurler.

Closer Eric Gagne (8 SV, 2.70 ERA) has had elbow surgery and is an uncertainty. If he’s on, the team will be in good hands in the ninth.

HITTING:

Major additions to the lineup include Rafael Furcal (.284 BA, 100 R, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 46 SB), Kenny Lofton (.335 BA, 67 R, 22 SB), Nomar Garciaparra (.283 BA, 9 HR) and Bill Mueller (, 295, 69 R, 10 HR, 62 RBI). Last season this team was 15th in batting average (.253); these additions can raise that average considerably.

J.D. Drew (.286 BA, 15 HR) and Jeff Kent (.286 BA, 100 R, 29 HR, 105 RBI) are both fine hitters who have great work ethics.

The new guys have the potential to add 60 runs to last year’s total of 685.

DEFENSE:

Shortstop Furcal, third baseman Mueller and converted first baseman Garciaparra have all been sure fielders in the past and should improve the Dodgers’ “D.” Garciaparra is learning a new position, so expect some adjustments as he works out the kinks.

The outfield from right to left is composed of J.D. Drew, Kenny Lofton, and Jose Cruz, all of whom are steady at their positions.

Dioner Navarro is a fine, athletic catcher who is learning to call a good game.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• Grady Little has his first gig managing since the Red Sox let him go in 2003. Players like him.
• Ned Colletti, formerly in the office at San Francisco, has experience and drive.
• Owner Frank McCourt knew he needed major changes and wasn’t afraid to make some tough decisions. He wants a winner again.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Nomar Garciaparra has had a slew of health problems; can he stay off the DL?
• They didn’t gut the farm system to make deals—this can prove beneficial in the near and far futures.
• Weak division means they can recover 2004 status as the best in the west fairly quickly.

CONCLUSION:

The Dodgers have a lot of pop now but possess a less than intimidating rotation. However, if each man in that rotation can pitch to his potential, they will win the NL West. This is especially true because now they have a much more sound infield that can handle those almost impossible to make plays.

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