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Baseball Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74, 2nd in the NL West) +3 games

Get Crunked: They have the best pitching staff in the league, probably because they signed the top pitcher on the market. Having Schmidt allows Penny and Lowe to slip into more comfortable 2 and 3 spots in the rotation, where they’re much more fit. The bullpen all the way through could be the best in baseball, right there with the other LA team. Saito, Broxton, Billingsley, and Beimel are pretty outstanding. Nomar and Kent might not have 30 home run power, but they’re pretty darn good hitters at the 3 and 4 slots. Juan Pierre and Rafael Furcal will give opposing teams hell at the top of the lineup.

Party Foul: Brett Tomko is a bit weak as a No. 5 starter but he’s adequate. Mark Hendrickson and Chad Billingsley must embrace their new roles as relievers. Wilson Betemit needs to shake his fielding woes from the Spring and build on his solid offensive year in ’06. RF will be a hole in the lineup, as Andre Ethier certainly cooled off after a hot start to the year in ’06.

Nomar’s still one of the best pure hitters in the game

What’d my GM do: He signed Jason Schmidt to a bargain deal, 3 years at $47 million is nothing for what Schmidt willl give them. Colletti brought in Randy Wolf in on a one-year deal to have a lefty in the rotation. Juan Pierre was expensive in most people’s eyes, $44 million over 5 years, but the guy can hit well over .300 and run, so I think it will work out fine. Mike Lieberthal was good, cheap insurance at just over a million bucks for Russell Martin who was worn out last year. Luis Gonzalez was pretty expensive for what he’ll provide; the Dodgers would’ve been better off letting Loney play for much cheaper than Gonzo’s $7.5 million figure. Colletti was busy wheeling and dealing.

Lay it on me Straight: This is a very solid team all the way through. The team offense and defense is solid, and the overall pitching staff is the best in the league. It also helps that Colletti is unafraid to make a move at the trade deadline if he feels something needs to be addressed.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: They should win the division and challenge for the best record in the league.

Can we be better than that: How much better than having the best record in the league can it get?


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