2011 MLB Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 MLB Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 MLB Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers
 

2011 MLB Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

From an internal mess, to Manny being Manny, to key players hitting the DL, was reality for the 2010 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Talk about a ruff regular season, and then having to watch your bitter rivals win the World Series definitely put the icing on the cake for the Dodgers.

Overall, not a good year for such a talented ball-club, whose loyal fans show up game, after game, year after year. If anything the Dodger fans deserve better, and if that isn’t enough to motivate a team, last year should be.

The Dodgers are skilled enough to compete and this is the year to do it, but will they step it up? Let’s take a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into 2011.

Positives:

Even though skipper Joe Torre said goodbye last season, his timing couldn’t have been better to hand the reigns over to his most loyal employee Don Mattingly. Mattingly knows a thing or two about working hard, after spending his entire career in Yankee pinstripes and never playing in a World Series. Mattingly was a fearless player, an absolute role model and the definition of a true team player.

Growing up watching Mattingly, I can guarantee he will bring the same attitude to his role as the Dodgers skipper; and without question, the players will respond.

The Dodgers have a certifiable ace in lefty Clayton Kershaw, who will be 23 at the start of 2011 season. Last season, in the midst of a mess, Kershaw posted a 2.91 ERA, struck out 212 batters, gave up just 13 home-runs, threw one complete, one shut-out and pitched just shy of 205 innings total.

Following Kershaw, is another young and talented pitcher named Chad Billingsley. Billingsley has the stuff of an ace, as he proved in 2007-2008 with a  record of 28-15, but the last two seasons he has been inconsistent and careless. At just 26, Billingsley needs to pitch to his potential again and surely has the chip on his shoulder to do it.

The backend starts with veteran Ted Lilly, who is finally healthy again and should have a big year. After only making 12 starts in 2010, where Lilly managed to record 77 strikeouts over 77 innings pitched, this season he should be back to his innings eating regular self. After Lilly, the Dodgers have Jon Garland and Hiroki Kuroda who both just chip away at innings and are as solid a backend as any team could want.

The Dodgers line-up underachieved to say the least in 2010. Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andre Eithier are three studs that need to grow up now and play to their potential. With Mattingly, comes Donnie Baseball and his attitude should light the fire for the trio. In my opinion, the fact that Kemp hit 28 homeruns and Eitheir was a 2010 All-Star, which leads me to believe the reason for last year’s second-half slump is purely because they stopped loving the game.

Negatives:

Closer Jonathan Broxton second half of 2010 has to make everyone question his ability to be effective. Even with the team’s internal drama, Broxton imploded and his lack of confidence was evident. This is not a trait any closer can have, as believing that game is over when you tae the ball, along with a little anger are key characteristics for any player in this role.

The only reason Broxton is under the negatives, is because he does not have the track record of the core hitters. Also, in a division like the NL West where games outcomes are decided daily by just one or two runs, a team’s closer has to be a one-man army that no matter what will not mentally collapse and be able to fake it on the occasional off-day.

Players To Watch:

OF Matt Kemp numbers dropped so much in 2010 it was disturbiana (LOL). Now that he is not dating super-singer Rihanna anymore, it is time for Kemp to get back to baseball. Kemp is a five-tool player and expect Kemp’s pathetic .249 batting average from 2010 to jump back to what the 26 year-old is capable of, which is .300+.

Kemp is the face of the franchise and he needs to be the leader of the team. Kemp holds the lighter and the Dodger bats need him to ignite the fire.

2011 NL West Prediction:

Even with their new leader, I feel 2011 will be a transitional year for the Dodgers. The team needs to get a consistant work ethic that was heavily damaged last year and that takes some time.

With the Rockies already in check and the Giants coming off a World Series year, I think the Dodgers will come in a close third. The team will be in the NL West race till the end and surely looking like a revived ball-club, but this team needs to learn how to fight first.

Look, I know this group only has a two to three year window left for these players to excel in their primes, and my guess is that 2012 will be the year of Dodger blue.

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