Dodgers Looking Strong

The Dodgers are tied for first place at the 15% mark of the season's 162 games. 15 and 9 is darn good baseball -- .625%. But San Diego is breathing down their necks and stand just ten percentage points behind them at the top of the N.L. West. As of today, four Dodgers are playing All-Star caliber baseball, Adrian Beltré, Paul Lo Duca, Cesar Izturis and Eric Gagné.

However, the team has some real problems, not the least of which is Hideo Nomo. Although possessing a 3-3 won-loss record his ERA is 6.27 as he continues to work without a fastball and leads the league in gopher balls. Jeff Weaver seems to be improving a little but not enough to help all that much. Meanwhile Jose Lima has had two bad starts and should give way to Wilson Alvarez in that 5th spot. Thus only two of our starters are earning their money: Odalis Perez and Kaz Ishii, who has opened a lot of eyes recently.

Alex Cora remains an easy out, just before the pitcher hits. David Ross continues his poor hitting as he did all spring and is one of the weakest hitters on the team ... in the same boat with the likes of newcomers Jason Grabowski and Olmedo Saenz. Shawn Green is having another relatively slow start and the Dodgers really miss Milton Bradley.

The team is getting some help from Robin Ventura who plays first base when Green moves to right field. Juan Encarnacion is picking it up at the plate. Although the team batting average and run production is better than a year ago, the starting pitching is not.

After a super start, the team has played just .500 ball in the last ten games going 5-5.

The main question on many fans' minds is what will Manager Jim Tracy do about the weak spots, particularly Nomo and the two main pinch hitters Grabowski and Saenz. The sad thing is the Dodgers still can't dip down into their minor league system to bring up either a hot hitter or a starter doing well in AAA at Las Vegas.

One of the things making it difficult is that the team is carrying twelve pitchers, all of whom are needed because of the overuse of the bullpen due to most starters bombing out early on. In my opinion, another position player with a decent bat is badly needed. I love Alex Cora's glove, but unless he starts hitting a lot more and if Antonio Perez, continues hitting the way he has been, second base could see a change. Along those lines, Joe Thurston is frittering way a great opportunity down in AAA.

DePodesta Additions--There are currently nine players in the Dodger organization who came via purchase or trades made by General Manager Paul DePodesta.

The biggest and most significant deal was getting Milton Bradley from Cleveland in return for minor league player of the year Franklin Gutierrez. Bradley is doing an excellent job with timely hitting and a very good on base percentage. In addition his fielding has featured some sensational plays in center field.

Of the nine new Dodger properties six are doing well, two not so well and one in limbo due to injury. Here's a look at those players first, with those on the Dodgers. Jason Grabowski and Jayson Werth, each started out as catchers, but now play other positions, Grabowski LF, 1B and 3B, although his only game appearance as a position player has been in left field. Werth had just one at bat pinch hitting, before getting injured. He has been on the DL for three weeks. He was slated to backup Dave Roberts in center field, who was moved to left when Bradley arrived on the scene.

Grabowski has had a terrible time. He got a single in his very first at bat and then didn't get his second hit until the 22nd game of the season. He is 2 for 20, batting just .100, and he's struck out a third of the time.

Down in AAA at Las Vegas, are Jose Flores, Antonio Perez and Cody Ross.

Flores has played some 2B, but mostly shortstop and a bit at 3B. He has an excellent OBP of .390. He makes contact with just 4 strikeouts, less than one in ten at bats, but he is only hitting .255. He has a "good eye", as they say having drawn 11 walks in 16 games. Perez is also a middle infielder, and is seen as a possible future second basemen for the Dodgers. After a slow start at the plate, he is coming on, now batting .333 with a super OBP of .424 in 16 games.

Cody Ross came to the Dodgers as a former minor league player of the year for Detroit. But he's been unable to get anything going and is now riding the bench much of the time. He was hitting just .167 with a poor .231 OBP and struck out 11 times in 24 at bats. He is an outfielder.

Two pitchers at AA Jacksonville are doing a good job. Both Glenn Bott and Ryan Ketchner are left handed starters. Each has won a game. Ketchner's ERA is just 0.81 in his first four starts covering 22.1 innings and has posted 22 strikeouts, walking 6. Bott in three starts has a 2.25 ERA over 16 innings but has walked 9 batters while striking out 12.

The last player picked up in return for Rick White, is Trey Dyson who is at High A Vero Beach and is hitting very well in the five games he's played. He's an outfielder who can also DH.

It's early, but DePodesta can feel pretty good about the players he has brought in to the Dodger organization.