Burning questions remain in Dodgers magical season
It’s good to be in Hollywood right now!
Not because Hollywood is the place where you’re likely to see A-listers on random street corners. Not because every day is a beautiful weather day, either.
It’s good to be in Hollywood because of the white-hot Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have done virtually no wrong over the past 50 games in posting a 42-8 record and running away with the National League West title.
Some fans feared that the All-Star break in mid-July would slow the Dodgers’ first-half momentum. The Dodgers have answered those fears by building an 8.5-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
So, is it all rainbows and kittens in La-La land until the 2013 postseason begins on Oct. 1? That remains to be seen. However, there are some questions that will need to be answered before the Dodgers’ season is put to bed.
Dodgers fans everywhere (okay, maybe just me!) want to know the answer to the following questions:
- Three’s company, but is four a crowd? – Everything is hunky-dory in the Dodger outfield right now with Carl Crawford in left, Andre Ethier in center and Yasiel Puig in right. What happens, though, when the Dodgers’ $180 million man Matt Kemp returns from the disabled list? Though Kemp has only hit five homers and driven in 27 runs this season, you don’t sit that pile of money on the bench! Puig is the hottest thing since the invention of fire, and he provides electricity seemingly every night. Crawford brings speed and leadoff potential to the top of the order and is hitting .289 and leads the team in stolen bases. That leaves Ethier. Ethier has put together a solid season with eight homers and 43 RBIs and has changed positions to accommodate Puig’s arrival. However, something’s gotta give in the outfield when Kemp returns. Seeing how manager Don Mattingly orchestrates the outfield overflow will be interesting over the final five weeks of the season.
- How will the Dodgers handle the black hole that has become the fifth starter? Chris Capuano has the best-looking high blue socks on the Dodgers, but his recent outings have been anything but stylish. One start will have Capuano looking solid and the next not so much. A yo-yo is steadier than Capuano and his 4-6 record and 4.66 ERA. The bespectacled Stephen Fife has filled in admirably for the Dodgers in the No. 5 hole this season. Fife has posted a 4-3 record and a 2.47 ERA in sporadic duty. Unfortunately, Fife has been lit up like a Christmas tree on a small town square at triple-A Albuquerque, going 0-1 with an ERA of 9.00 since Aug. 10. In Fife’s defense, pitching in Albuquerque is akin to toeing the rubber at Coors Field in Colorado, but he still has been anything but solid there. The Dodgers won’t need a fifth starter in the playoffs, but the final 40 games of the season are a different story.
- Where (and how!) will Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson fit in the Dodgers’ ‘pen? Rumor has it that the former San Francisco Giants All-Star closer is going to wear “00” on the back of his beautiful white and blue Dodgers jersey. How fitting that a guy with so much mystery and eccentricity would pick double zero. Wilson was bringing 97 to 99-mph heat when he saved 48 games for the Giants in 2010. He also used his nasty cutter to make right-handed hitters look silly. That was before Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. Wilson has been pitching for triple-A Albuquerque recently, and he hasn’t been approaching triple-digits on the radar gun. I’m fine with that, though. Instead of 97 to 99, Wilson has been averaging 92-94 with the Isotopes. The velocity will continue to climb as he settles in and stretches out. What I want to know is how Wilson will be integrated into the Dodgers bullpen rotation. The bullpen has been one of the biggest keys in the Los Angeles turnaround. Try these bullpen ERAs on for size to get an idea of how effective Dodgers relievers have been: J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez (2.01); Kenley Jansen (2.04 with 88 K’s in 61 innings) and Chris Withrow (2.21). This is another situation in which Mattingly must earn his managing stripes. If something ain’t broke, you usually don’t want to try to fix it. The bullpen is working like a well-oiled machine, but integrating Wilson into the mix is a nice problem for the Dodgers to have.