How the Los Angeles Dodgers will win the West
I’m on cloud nine right now, and I just thought that all of you should know!
It’s not because my Dodgers have finally gotten their act together and are breathing down the Arizona Diamondbacks’ necks in the National League West. Oh, I am giddy about that, but it isn’t the reason for my newfound happiness.
I’m stoked because I now know I can write for a powerful sports website whose name everyone knows. I don’t write for that site, but I know that I am capable of doing so.
How do I know this, you might be wondering? A syndicated writer for said sports site posted a column this week on the Dodgers and his thoughts on what it will take for them to win the NL West and have a successful second half of the season.
This writer basically said for the Dodgers to be successful, they need to do the following: (1) stay healthy; (2) get production from the back end of the starting rotation; and (3) be lucky.
I’m waiting for this writer’s next article “How to win the lottery” with advice on how to hit it big by picking the correct Lotto numbers. Heck, I bet even IQ-challenged Anaheim Angels fans (I know, that’s redundant!) could have figured this out about how to improve the Dodgers’ second-half hopes.
I know some other insightful ways in which the Dodgers can ensure second-half baseball success: (1) Score more runs than their opponents; (2) have their starting pitchers throw complete-game shutouts in every game; and (3) never let Brandon League in another game.
Sure, it would be nice if the Dodgers had some bounces go their way in the second half. It would also be nice if their opponents in the NL West were a bit unlucky. A healthy lineup will also help the team’s chances to make the postseason.
Here are some of the most important things I think need to happen in order for the Dodgers to be right where they should at the end of the season:
• Matt Kemp needs to get his head on straight – It’s obvious Kemp is physically askew, but I think it’s even more apparent that his head’s not right. Kemp used to be the most feared hitter in the Dodgers’ lineup. Now, Ian Kennedy, Matt Cain and other division rival pitchers would prefer to pitch to Kemp over at least four other Dodgers. If I am Kennedy, give me Kemp with the bases loaded right now over Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. MLB Network broke down Kemp’s swing last season before his shoulder injury versus this season’s futile stroke. Kemp’s mechanics are definitely different than when he was in his other-worldly groove early last season. Four homers in 224 plate appearances is not going to cut it if the Dodgers are going to surpass the Diamondbacks and hold off the Rockies and Giants.
• The bullpen needs to continue to shine – Until the Dodgers’ transformation began on June 22, the bullpen was one of the team’s biggest Achilles heels. It didn’t matter who was inserted in the middle innings of games, because failure was spread evenly throughout the pen. One improvement in the bullpen came with the merciful removal of League in the ninth inning in favor of Kenley Jansen. Jansen has anchored the closer’s spot, which has seemed to have a trickle-down effect. Two lefties – Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell – have also been rock-solid for the Dodgers. Rodriguez has struck out 38 hitters in 34.1 innings with a 2.36 ERA. Howell has been even better, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.27 ERA. The Dodgers need continued production from Howell and Rodriguez, as well as improvements from Ronald Belisario (4-5, 3.56 ERA) and Jose Dominguez (2.45 ERA).
• Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez need to stay healthy – Puig has been the feel-good story of the season’s first half for the Dodgers. Puig-mania has engulfed the city of Los Angeles. However, Gonzalez is the MVP of the team over the first half and the Dodgers need him to remain injury-free. Gonzalez leads the team in virtually every offensive category – home runs (14), RBIs (59), hits (103), runs (38) and doubles (20). He has been the Rock of Gibraltar for the Dodgers when Kemp and Ethier have struggled and Carl Crawford has been injured. Ramirez has been lights-out since his return from the disabled list after his thumb injury in April. Ramirez has helped take some of the offensive pressure off Gonzalez, and the Dodgers need him in the daily lineup the rest of the season. Ramirez has publicly said that he loves playing in Los Angeles and is amenable to a long-term contract extension. The Dodgers need to lock Ramirez up and enjoy finally having a solid bat in the lineup from the normally weak shortstop position.