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Pitching Keeps Dodgers on Top

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Now that the Lakers season is over it’s time to get caught up on all things Doyers.

At just about the halfway point in the season the Dodgers have the best record in baseball at 47-24. They are 23 games over .500 and hold an 8 ½ lead in the NL West over the San Francisco Giants. What’s remarkable is that they’ve done this with their best slugger Manny Ramirez suspended for 50 games, their opening day starter Hiroki Kuroda sitting out 10 starts due to a strained oblique, catcher Russell Martin hitting as anemically as the Padres lineup and RBI leader James Loney only hitting five homers, three of which have come in the last five days.

But the Dodgers are in this position because of their pitching.

Before the season started I mentioned that the big trouble spot for the Dodgers is their pitching. Things didn’t get better when Kuroda was shut down after the opening day start. James McDonald could not find the strike zone and was sent back to the minors (where he has since found his form named the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week from June 8 to June 14). Both Erics, Stults and Milton, were put on the disabled list. Even the pen has been ravaged by injuries to Hong Chih Kuo, Will Ohman and Claudio Vargas.

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Despite all of this the Dodgers have the best team ERA in baseball with 3.56 and have held down opposing batters to a .236 batting average, best in baseball.

I have to hand it to Joe Torre, he’s gotten the most of what he’s got. While Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf have been pretty consistent on the mound, Torre has used the bullpen when he’s needed to keep the Dodgers in games which has been key to Dodger victories. The Dodgers have won 13 games in their final at-bat and are 8-1 when the game is tied after eight innings.

Please note when I say bullpen I really mean Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario who are on pace to throw almost 200 innings combined. The biggest source of concern right now is how much Torre is relying on these two. It will be interesting in the next six weeks before the trading deadline to see what general manager Ned Colletti will bring in to the team. I’ll just say that if he doesn’t bring in relievers we will see Troncoso’s and Belisario’s arms littering the run from the bullpen to the mound at Dodger Stadium by August.

But all in all, barring some cataclysmic disaster, the Dodgers will be the last team standing in baseball come late October.