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3 LOS ANGELES DODGERS

March 26, 2012
March 26, 2012

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March 26, 2012

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3 LOS ANGELES DODGERS

ENEMY LINES

This is an article from the March 26, 2012 issue

A rival scout sizes up the Dodgers

They could have gone right in the toilet last year, let all the [ownership] distractions ruin them. But they sure as heck didn't, thanks in part to Don Mattingly, who came a long way as a manager.... Matt Kemp's tools are just off the charts—and last year he grew up. His attitude has done a complete 180. Now he's kind of a leader, which they didn't expect him to be. The year he had, it's going to repeat itself. This is a Hall of Fame talent.... Clayton Kershaw, he can strike you out, he can give you innings, he's competitive, he's lefthanded—and he's young. He might have a chance to win 300 games. He's kind of like Koufax was—10 strikeouts and a few pop flies every game, what can go wrong? Out of the top three NL guys—along with Halladay and Lincecum—I'd take Kershaw.... Seems like Chad Billingsley always starts the year off gangbusters and fades in the second half. I think he gets worn out. He's got a compact, thick body, maybe it's a conditioning thing. He's been a disappointment.... Potential closer Javy Guerra is a little more consistent, but Kenley Jansen has big stuff. They're lucky to have both of them.... I think Dee Gordon could be a great player. He's going to be a base stealer and he's very acrobatic. He can make the spectacular play at short, but he'll learn you really win by making the everyday play.... Andre Ethier has to do better. His splits against lefties were really bad. He's got to be a 20-homer guy, hit .300, and he wasn't those things.... I'm not sure they're going to use Jerry Sands very much because I think Juan Rivera is going to play left, but every time I've seen Sands he's done very well. Big, strong kid with some power.

THE LINEUP

With 2011 Statistics

MANAGER DON MATTINGLY

2nd season with Dodgers

View this article in the original magazine

11124.551.35BULLPENWSVERAWHIPRHJAVY GUERRA2212.311.18RHKENLEY JANSEN252.851.04

NEW ACQUISITION

PROJECTED PAYROLL

$90.7 million

THE NUMBER

10

Matt Kemp's Wins Above Replacement last season according to baseball-reference.com, the first time anyone has had a double-digit WAR since 2004. A repeat performance would really put Kemp in rarefied air. Only 11 hitters have had a 10+ WAR in consecutive seasons; all but Barry Bonds are in the Hall of Fame.

MODEST PROPOSAL

By adding Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano to a staff that already included Ted Lilly, the Dodgers now have three predominantly fly ball pitchers in their starting rotation. Throw in Clayton Kershaw, a less-extreme fly ball pitcher, and Los Angeles will be as reliant on its outfield defense as any team in baseball. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are fixtures in center and right, leaving only leftfield in question. The Dodgers re-signed Juan Rivera, 33, to a one-year deal; however, the 230-pound Rivera does not have great range and his defense has been declining over the past two seasons. The team would be better off, given its staff, allowing Tony Gwynn Jr. to take the lion's share of playing time. Gwynn was a superior centerfielder in 2009 and '10 for the Padres, saving 10 to 15 runs a year in less than full-time play, and he was above average for the Dodgers in a reserve role last year. In a neutral setting, Gwynn and Rivera are comparable players, each worth around a single win above replacement. To the Dodgers, though, Gwynn's ability to track down fly balls is more important than Rivera's low-OBP power.

PHOTOROBERT BECK (KERSHAW)PHOTOJEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (GWYNN)