Through spring training, we had pegged the team exactly as their Florida play showed, a mediocre, mid to back-of-the-pack team.
Having pled guilty on more than one occasion in the past, we said we'd fess up if our prediction proved faulty. The Dodgers, after opening lousy in Milwaukee,are 12-5 in April, winners on both the road and at home, in first place. Take away the Milwaukee non start, they are red hot.
The Dodgers have mostly done it on pitching, timely hitting and sometimes with mirrors. The sum total looks better than the parts. But nevertheless, real baseball in April has been a lot more productive than the make believe spring training games.
The Dodgers had planned on getting an early start from the speedy start of their two speedsters, Rafy Furcal and Juan Pierre.
It did NOT happen. Rafy was mostly DL-d and Pierre got off to a slow start. And the Dodgers were 12-5 anyway.
The Dodgers had planned on punch from the corner infield positions. While Nomar Garciaparra did fine at first, third base was a big fat zero. The effort of Wilson Betemit was so bad a 1-for-4 day at the plate RAISED his batting average. How long the Dodgers can continue with Betemit is a question. The lucky fast start has largely covered this great big hole but the team can hardly be expected to continue at this pace with no contribution from third base.
The Dodgers stole outfielder Brady Clark from Milwaukee for Elmer Dessens (who's tank was running on fumes) figuring the other teams would run on either Luis Gonzalez or Juan Pierre in late innings of close ball games.
What they got was a guy with some ammunition in his bat as well. The contributions of Clark in early going has more than exceeded any expectations. So far, he is this year's Marlon Anderson.
Gonzo is what the Dodgers expected. More a doubles than a homer threat, and a decided step slower in the outfield, he is a veteran hitter. He is giving the Dodgers time to let James Loney learn the outfield in Triple A (even though we still figure the Dodgers would be better off with Nomar at third, Loney at first, and Betemit off to refind his stroke someplace other than the everyday lineup).
The bad luck guy in early going is outfielder Matt Kemp who improbably made the opening day lineup and then played well in part time play only to get injured. The lucky guy was second-year outfielder who has come in in part time play and looks like he's playing himself out of Grady Little's doghouse after a great break in year in 2006.
All that being said, the pitching has led the way. The Dodgers are 12 and 5 even though Derek Lowe is only a 500 pitcher so far and expensive Schmidt is winless and on the DL. Questionmark Randy Wolf has won three and in early going Brad Penny is off to the fastest start in his career.
The long men in the bullpen, baseball's most anonymous role, have been heroes in the early going. The bullpen has yet to blow a save opportunity. The bullpen has pitched better than their ERAs show with most of the high numbers having been generated in a single bad outing here or there.
A catcher can be a captain on the field and Russell Martin has been all of that and more both offensively and defensively.
The outfield defense and weak arms have been shown to the world at large and have given up runs that even medium defensive outfields would not have given up, but the Dodgers have gotten away with it.
Can they keep it up? There are reasons for optimism.
1]- Rafy is back and will get untracked. 2]-Pierre is getting better. 3]-They can and will generate the early runs the Dodgers are counting on. 4]- Jeff Kent is the second baseman of 2004 and 2005 not the injured player of a year ago. 5]- Surely even the slow to act leadership will do something with third base, a problem crying for action. 6]- The $45 million investment in Jason Schmidt has to produce some dividends (doesn't it?). 7]- The pitching, which has carried the Dodgers in early going,
still has parts that haven't shown what they can do.
Let's be honest.
This still is NOT a great team. BUT, they HAVE gotten off to a great start. The baseball gods have worked in the Dodgers favor. Can it continue? If often hasn't in the past, but sometimes it has.
Can this be a year of magic?
Time will tell, but so far so good. It often is better to be lucky than good and the Dodgers fans, hungry since 1988 for a championship, will take it any way they can.
Whoops, Was I Wrong
LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories
Charlie Culberson Playoff ProjectionCharlie Culberson Playoff Projection
LA Dodgers InsiderWednesday at 9:10 AM
Maeda Productivety Report for PostseasonMaeda Productivety Report for Postseason
LA Dodgers InsiderTuesday at 4:46 PM
Dodgers' Tulsa Prospects: PitchersBarry Lewis of the Tulsa World News Company Reviews Three Key AA Tulsa Pitching Prospects.
LA Dodgers InsiderSunday at 3:14 PM
McCarthy VS. Anderson to CLINCH NL WestMcCarthy VS. Anderson to CLINCH NL West
LA Dodgers InsiderSunday at 10:42 AM