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And Los Angeles is Burning: A Los Angeles Dodgers Preview

A brief look at an opponent we play this week.

Dates we play them: 6/23-6/25 at home

Offense: A potential lineup: Juan Pierre-LF, Rafael Furcal-SS, Orlando Hudson-2B, Casey Blake-3B, Andre Ethier-RF, Matt Kemp-CF, James Loney-1B, Russell Martin-C, Mark Loretta-DH

Did anyone actually think the Dodgers would have the best record in baseball with one week left in June?  And that they would be able to do it without the Herculean man-child named Manny Ramirez?  If you're raising your hand, you are full of it.  Not even WTGTD could have predicted this with is magical powers.  No single player on the Dodgers benefited more from Manny's suspension than Juan Pierre.  The 31 year old speedster hit the gate running and has not looked back.  He has 17 steals and if the season ended today would have set career highs in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+.  And that makes me happy.  I felt bad for the guy this off-season, but it looked like everything worked out for him.  Plus he even gets his name dropped by Jay-Z.  Rafael Furcal has kind of done the opposite.  His defense has been great, but his speed is down and so are his batting stats.  It could be a result of the back injury he sustained last season, or the result of John Schuerholz taking up voodoo.  Whatever it is, you can bet the Dodgers are praying it'll get fixed as they owe him $20.5 million over the next two seasons.  For some reason, perenial White Sox All-Star Orlando Hudson is batting third for LA.  I don't really understand it either, but it's not like he isn't hitting.  He hit for the cycle this year and has seemingly made the impossible possible.  Casey Blake is hitting better than he has any right to.  This is due to his .352 BABIP, which is .044 points higher than normal.  Hopefully regressions strikes this week.  He's yet another over-30 veteren Ned Colletti decided to give a three-year deal to.

The next four hitters are the most interesting of the lineup, as they make up the young core.  Andre Ethier, he of FJM fame (I miss them so), is on pace to set new career highs in homers, doubles, and steals.  His slash-line stats are a little on the low-side for him, but his BABIP is down so that should fix itself over the season.  And he's a blogger.  The Bison on the other hand is a BABIP machine (career .379!).  Kemp is my favorite of the young Dodgers.  He's 24, fast, strong, and a good fielder.  His best years lie ahead of him, as long as he stays away from Dodger's outfielder hater Mike Winters.  James Loney is still young, but doesn't have the power you expect out of a corner infielder.  He isn't a bad option, but unless he starts to develop some pop he might not be manning first at Chavez Ravine for too long, no matter how much he promotes our constitutional rights.  Russell Martin, or Turtle as I like to call him, has something wrong with him.  He's still drawing his walks and his BABIP and LD% are almost right in line with his career numbers, but for some reason he just isn't getting his hits and power is all but gone.  Here's hoping he figures out what is wrong, but not until Friday at the soonest.  Mark Loretta is still playing baseball?  Seriously?  Not that he was ever anything terrifying before, but old age has robbed him of almost all of his worth with a bat.

Pitching:  A potential rotation and closer: Chad Billingsley-RHP, Randy Wolf-LHP, Hiroki Kuroda-RHP, Clayton Kershaw-LHP and Jonathan Broxton-RHP.

That's right, according to their depth chart the Dodgers are using a four-man rotation.  There is no doubt Chad Billinsgley is having a great season (ERA+ of 150).  The only thing that seems unsustainable is his HR/9 of .27 considering his FB% is still the same.  When regression hits in that regard, he'll still be an above-average starter who is only 24.  One of the men who almost got the Astros to the playoffs (if not for our wonderful commisioner), Randy Wolf seems to have found the second-wind of his career.  He's a lefty who throws in the high-80s, with a curve, change, and slider.  Hiroki is basically having the same solidly above-average season that he had last year.  He lives off of his fastball and slider.  Clayton Kershaw is the future ace of LA's rotation.  He throws a mid-90s fastball and a solid curve from the left-side.  Thankfully, he doesn't get a pass as a pitcher we haven't seen before.  Jonathan Broxton is on his way to becoming the Senior Circuit's premier closer.  He has a steller K/BB ratio to go along with his over-powering fastball (97.4 mph this season) and devestating slider.

Outlook: Bad.  The Dodger's are a very good team and quite possibly the best one we've played this year.  Prediction: 1-2.