One thing seems evident at the end of April: The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to win the National League West. They have the second best record in the National League and play in a weak division where no other team seems capable of putting together an 85 win season. The Dodgers seem well-rounded and have a manager that will keep them relaxed and sure of what their roles will be. Need a few more reasons? Let's take a look.
The Dodgers' lineup is solid from first to eight. Furcal is off to a slow start, but he will get back to his career averages at least before the season is out. His double play partner, Orlando Hudson is a solid, league average hitter. Loney is solid. Casey Blake is an upgrade from Blake DeWitt. Manny is Manny and takes all the pressure off of all the other hitters and seems to be in an unbelievable zone since he got to LA. Matt Kemp has a .977 OPS and seems to be filling into the kind of hitter that was predicted for him. And Andre Ethier is also blossoming as a hitter and leads the team in RBI and batting behind Manny is going to keep him there. Russell Martin is off to a slow start, but as long as it's not health related, then he should get back to his career average of .280 by season's end.
Juan Pierre should never again be a starter, but he is solid as a backup (even if he is going to pout a bit). Brad Ausmus seems to be enjoying his backup status in LA and is following a great spring with a great April in limited duty. Mark Loretta and Doug Mienkiewicz (who has the single hardest name to spell in the majors) are solid. DeWitt might be a liability as is Juan Castro, but that's hardly game changing.
Solid Starting Pitching
Chad Billingsley is an ace in all senses of the word. He is now 39-19 in his young career with a 3.25 ERA. Each year, his Walks per 9 innings decreases and he keeps the ball in the yard with a high strikeout rate. He's already 4-0 this year. Randy Wolf is solid, if unspectacular. He'll keep you in the game for six innings, doesn't walk many and is a fighter. Clayton Kershaw is scary talented. He's off to a rough start, but if he can find the plate a bit more consistently, he'll be as good as Billingsley. And he is only 20 years old. Eric Stults and John McDonald are question marks. They are both inexperienced and are walking too many batters. But heck, the Dodgers have the resources to go out and get somebody if they need to. Pedro Martinez comes to mind.
Joe Torre, more than any other manager, relies heavily on his closer and Jonathan Broxton has come in to his own in that capacity. He has been dominating this season with 16 strikeouts in 10 innings and has already won two games and saved six others. His current ERA is 0.90.
The rest of the bullpen is kind of iffy. Ronald Belisario has been decent. Will Ohman is solid and Ramon Troncoso has had a good start. Kuo is reliable, but the rest have been pretty bad. Guillermo Mota is nearly eighty years old and should be cut.
Manager and Coaching Staff
Larry Bowa is one of the best coaches in baseball. Mattingly is respected and his players are responding to him as batting coach. Rick Honeycutt is smart and prepared and will get the most out of his pitching staff. Mariano Duncan has followed Torre from New York. And Joe Torre is Joe Torre. One of the best.
The Dodgers have a few weaknesses and will have a bad stretch or two. But overall, the team is as solid as any in the National League and certainly much more talented than any other rival in their division.