2010 was not very good to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only did they not reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, but they had to watch their division rivals, the San Francisco Giants, as they paraded after winning the World Series. Manny being manny sucked the life out of the lineup, and some off-field woes kept the team from flourishing.
2011 is where the turnaround happens. There is hope in L.A. and all are internal sources. The Dodgers are entering auto-correct mode and will turn 2011 into a much more productive year. Here are the five reasons why the Dodgers will be the best fantasy team from the NL West and where you can find value in unlikely places.
1. Bullpen rebirth- We all know the Jonathan Broxton story, stud closer gone bad, but he still has the makings do be the top closer we thought he’d be last year. However, he’ll be on a short leash. Should he fail, there is help within. The Dodgers still have two legitimate options to replace Broxton: Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo. Jansen posted a 0.67 ERA and 13.67 K/9 ratio in 27 innings and has the makeup of a closer. Kuo replaced Broxton, thankfully, toward the end of the season and posted a marvelous 1.20 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 12 saves in 60 innings. He has strikeout stuff and matched Broxton strikeout for strikeout in 2 fewer innings.
2. An offensive rebound- Last year the Dodgers lineup was all over the place. The off-field story lines of Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez put a damper on the potential of a great group of young hitters. Center fielder, Matt Kemp was the biggest story. Whether or not there was a problem with Kemp’s attitude, there appeared to be a problem with his numbers. His average dropped significantly and he stopped stealing bases well. Last season is behind him and he’ll hopefully find comfort in a stable lineup slot and a good relationship with his new manager, Don Mattingly (also a former hitting coach). Kemp will improve across the board and get back to where he was in 2009 when he was a
3. Bye bye Joe- Joe Torre is gone in Dodgertown and will now make a name for himself working for the Major League Baseball operations office. How does this improve the Dodgers? Even though Torre is one of the greatest managers of all-time, he wasn’t a good fit for a young core of players in L.A. He can be blamed for the overworking then subsequent failures of Jonathan Broxton and Russell Martin and the inconsistency of Matt Kemp. He saved his young starters (Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley) and went to his closer, Broxton, too often and burned him out. Martin caught too many games and this affected his offense to a point where he was useless to fantasy owners. Torre liked to move Kemp up and down the lineup and this took a toll on Kemp’s abilities. Hitting leadoff is much different from hitting second, which is much different from hitting cleanup, which is much different from hitting ninth (you get the idea). Yeah, those are the batting order slots that Kemp could call home, he hit every where except for eighth. That eventually led to the inconsistency in his plate approach. Torre ran this crew ragged and it showed. Now that he’s gone they’ll be playing in a much more relaxed environment.
4. Relief from off-field headaches- Frank and Jamie McCourt, co-owners of the team, are now divorced and the tug-o-war they played with the owner title has finished...I think. Nevertheless, Frank McCourt was dealing with a lot including that and him accusing matt Kemp of a poor work ethic, but things seem to be fine now. Manny Ramirez, one of the greatest hitters ever to play, started the year as a Dodger and actually was hitting very well before he was traded to the White Sox. It is always the same story with Manny, restlessness. He once again became bored and tired of the team he played for and it showed in his performance. Although the Dodgers will miss his bat (now with Tampa bay and primed for a comeback) they will accept peace and quiet a Manny-less dugout will provide.
5. A solid starting five- To the dismay of the rest of the division, the Dodgers have one of baseball’s best starting rotations. They have quietly put together an ideal rotation that is always improving. Starting with a 1-2 punch that rivals Giants’ Lincecum and Cain, the Dodgers’ best two starters Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are ready to jump to that elite level. By combining for 25 wins and 383 K’s in 2010 they showed great promise, but those numbers should rise to closer to 32 and 400 in 2011. Kershaw, who just recently turned 23, is likely to become a
Bottom line with this Dodger team is don’t sleep on them in 2011. They’ll provide loads of fantasy value, something they failed to do in 2010. There are some risks, but the rewards and guarantees are far more valuable.