Monday, October 26, 2009

Off-season preview, part I

I've decided to break down the off-season preview into four parts: Dodger free agents, arbitration-eligible young players, potential free agent targets and potential trade targets.

The Dodgers have 15 free agents, not counting Manny Ramirez, who is all but a lock to exercise his $20M player option for 2010.

Dodger Free Agents
Brad Ausmus
Ronnie Belliard
Juan Castro
Jon Garland ($10M mutual option, $2.5M buyout if team declines, $1M if player declines)
Orlando Hudson (Type A)
Mark Loretta
Doug Mientkiewicz
Eric Milton
Guillermo Mota
Will Ohman
Vicente Padilla ($12M club option, $1.75M buyout)
Jason Schmidt
Jim Thome
Jeff Weaver
Randy Wolf (Type A)

Hudson: Many have said Hudson will not be back, especially after his benching toward the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. If it comes to be, his signing will have been well worth it. He hit for the Dodgers' first cycle since 1970 and played Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base -- something the Dodgers haven't had since 2004. The Dodgers need to offer him arbitration. The worst thing that can happen is he accepts and the Dodgers are "stuck" with a great team player for another season. Arbitration: Yes

Wolf: Randy is an interesting topic. He had a career-year in 2009, and the Dodgers needed every bit of it. He is likely to command a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal on the open market. The Dodgers should be in the hunt to re-sign him, but don't be surprised if he cashes in on his fantastic 2009. Arbitration: Yes

Garland/Padilla: First of all, neither of these guys will have their options exercised. However, the Dodgers could look to bring back one or both of these guys on the cheap. The Dodgers need an ace, but these guys aren't aces. They're decent back-of-the-rotation guys. Perhaps there is only a need for one. Arbitration: No

Belliard: Belliard was a late-season spark off the bench and, eventually, as a starter. However, if the Dodgers think he'll perform nearly as well as he did with the Dodgers in a full-time role, they are sadly mistaken. The Dodgers should bring him back as a utility/part-time guy, though. Arbitration: No

As for the rest, no other player will be offered arbitration. And if I'm the Dodgers, the only guys I consider bringing back are Doug Mientkiewicz and Jeff Weaver. Doug didn't play as much as expected, due to injury, and Weaver was a pleasant surprise as a spot-starter/long reliever.

Next up:
Arbitration-eligible young players

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And just like that, the season ends

The Phillies defeated the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS, 10-4.

The Dodgers' pitching didn't show up but for one game the entire series (Game 2). And it was painfully evident that after Jimmy Rollins came through for the Phillies on Monday night, the series was all but over.

The Dodgers weren't going to be able to out-hit the Phillies, especially since they had a red-hot Ryan Howard. The lack of quality pitching was the Dodgers' undoing.

It was a quality season overall for the Dodgers, finishing with 95 wins and another NL West title. However, they have yet to win more than one game in a postseason series against Philadelphia.

Now it's on to the off-season -- an off-season filled with many questions.

The only sure thing is, the Dodgers will be bringing Ned Colletti back as GM, as he signed a contract extension on Tuesday.

One other sure thing is the pending divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt will play a roll in what the Dodgers do -- or don't do -- this off-season.

My next post will be an off-season preview.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dodgers trail NLCS 3-1

The Dodgers are just about done.

They dropped two games in a row in Philadelphia, 11-0 and 5-4.

Monday's Game 3 was never much of a contest. The Dodgers started a rusty Hiroki Kuroda, with which I had no problem. However, it backfired.

Tuesday's Game 4 was a heartbreaker. The Dodgers, trailing 2-0 after a Ryan Howard two-run home run, clawed back to tie the game at two. They took the lead on a fifth-inning Matt Kemp homer. The Dodgers tacked on one more run in the sixth, as did the Phillies.

The ninth inning rolled around, and Jonathan Broxton had already been in the game. This was a must-win game for the Dodgers and they had their all-star closer on the bump.

He got Raul Ibanez to ground out to start the inning. He then, inexplicably, walked Matt Stairs on four pitches. Broxton even admitted he was pitching around Stairs.

"I wasn't going to give him a fastball down the middle," said Broxton.

I know Stairs hit a home run off Broxton in last year's NLCS that has yet to land, but to pitch around a 40-year-old Matt Stairs is cowardly and stupid. And it came back to doom the Dodgers.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Broxton hit future Giant or Padre (because he's a Dodger killer), Carlos Ruiz on the first pitch.

Broxton was able to get Dobbs out for the second out before grooving a fastball to Jimmy Rollins, which Rollins hit for a game-winning, two-run double. With that hit, the Dodgers' season is effectively over.

I've been a Broxton supporter, even though I wasn't totally convinced when he took over for Takashi Saito last season. He was flat-out dominant this season and there wasn't much of a reason not to believe in him.

Boy, was I wrong.

Teams have come back from 3-1 deficits before, but the odds are not good -- especially for this Dodger team, which has shown a lack of spark since leaving Los Angeles.

It has happened 11 times in LCS history.

I'm not giving up all hope, but most of the hope I had was dashed when Rollins won the game for the Phillies.

The Phillies are now the Dodgers' new Cardinals. Let's just hope it doesn't take six years to get over Philly as it did St. Louis.

Go Blue.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dodgers split first two games of NLCS

After a disappointing performance on Thursday, the Dodgers bounced back Friday to defeat the Phillies, 2-1.

Vicente Padilla pitched his best game as a Dodger, going 7 1/3 innings, allowing only a solo home run to Ryan Howard.

The Dodgers rallied for two runs in the eighth inning and Jonathan Broxton slammed the door shut in the ninth.

The Dodgers are going to need Hiroki Kuroda and Randy Wolf to step it up in Philadelphia.

Many people criticized Joe Torre for sticking with Clayton Kershaw too long in game one. Normally I would agree. However, I liked the decision to see what the kid could do. It's unfortunate it didn't work out for the Dodgers, but it won't be the last time the phenom has a chance to prove himself.

Go Blue!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dodgers on to NLCS!

The Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, defeating the Redbirds, 5-1, on Saturday.

The Dodger attack was fueled by Andre Ethier (3-5, HR, two RBI) and Manny Ramirez (3-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI). The Dodgers got a great pitching performance out of Vicente Padilla, who went seven innings, allowed four hits and struck out four.

After Thursday's dramatic win, it seemed like any momentum the Cardinals had built leading into the ninth inning on that day was gone for good. The Dodgers took care of business and will now await the winner of the Colorado/Philadelphia series.

Three down, eight to go.

Go Blue!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dodgers win 3-2 in dramatic fashion!

Wow, that was a hell of a game. The Dodgers, who mustered only one run against Adam Wainwright, scored two in the ninth inning to stun the Cardinals and take a 2-0 series lead.

Clayton Kershaw, in his first postseason start, gave the Dodgers a solid outing, going 6 2/3 innings, allowing 9 hits, two runs, one walk (intentional to Albert Pujols) and four strikeouts.

Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez flied out to start the ninth. James Loney hit a fly ball/sinking liner to left field, where Matt Holliday apparently lost it in the crowd, which resulted in Loney ending up on second.

A walk to Casey Blake was followed up by the game-tying single by Ronnie Belliard. Russell Martin walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Mark Loretta to come through with the biggest hit of his career.

He singled to center on an 0-1 pitch to give the Dodgers the win. It was the Dodgers' 13th walk-off win of the season.

The Dodgers travel to St. Louis on Saturday, where Vicente Padilla takes on Joel Pinero.

Go Blue!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dodgers take NLDS opener, 5-3

The Dodgers, behind a somewhat surprising offensive performance and a great bullpen showing, defeated the Cardinals 5-3 in the first game of their NLDS series.

After allowing a run in the first, the Dodgers took the lead back on two pitches: A single by the red-hot Rafael Furcal and a mammoth two-run home run to Matt Kemp.

Kemp's first-inning two-run shot

The Dodgers tacked on single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings, while the Cardinals added single runs in the fourth and ninth innings.

The Dodgers send 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw against Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner and NL Cy Young candidate.

Go Blue!

Dodgers start playoff run tonight

The Dodgers start their playoff run tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals -- a team which has completely owned the Dodgers in recent memory.

The Dodgers are going with Randy Wolf in game one, Clayton Kershaw in game two and Vicente Padilla in game 3. The Cardinals are countering with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pinero.

The key for the Dodgers this series is the offense. Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier slumped for the past couple of weeks. The Dodgers won't be able to beat the Cards without each one of these guys contributing.

It's going to be tough, but the Dodgers must erase the stigma that they cannot beat St. Louis. If they get past the mental block, it'll all be about the play on the field.

Go Dodgers!