It’s amazing how much can change in a month.  There was a time when I was on the verge of decrying the Dodgers’ season failure. They were 12 games under .500 and 9 1/2 games out of first place. L.A. has gone 20-5 since then, the best mark in the NL over that time span, and second only to the Tampa Bay Rays.

There have been a lot of factors in the Dodgers’ surge to the top.  The offense has started to get healthy, with Hanley Ramirez leading the way. Hanley is just destroying the ball at a .390 clip. Andre Ethier is looking like he might have found something, as evidenced by his golf shot home run Friday night off of Washington’s Rafael Soriano on a deep down-and-in slider. Andre is sporting a nifty line of .340/.422/.875 in July.

The starting rotation has also been strengthened by Zack Greinke rounding into form (5-0, 2.36 ERA over his last six starts) and the addition of Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 3.12 ERA, 1.44 WHIP in three starts with L.A.).

Bullpen roles have finally been set after months of turmoil as Kenley Jansen is firmly entrenched as the team’s closer, Ronald Belisario has regained his form, and young guns like Paco Rodriguez, Jose Dominguez, and Chris Withrow have been afforded the opportunity to shine.  Check out this great L.A. Times article on the improvement of the ‘pen.

So, why will the Dodgers win the West?

SUPERIOR PITCHING

Instead of editorializing here, I figured I’d just let the numbers do the talking.  Let’s take a look at the top 3 starters on each NL West team, and you tell me who you’d pick to win the division.

DODGERS

Clayton Kershaw: 8-6, 1.98 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 139 K:35BB in 145.1 IP

Zack Greinke: 8-2, 3.36 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 71 K:30 BB in 91 IP

Hyun-Jin Ryu: 7-3, 3.09 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 93 K:39 BB in 116.2 IP

DIAMONDBACKS

Patrick Corbin: 11-1, 2.35 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 109 K:33 BB in 130.1 IP

Wade Miley: 6-8, 4.03 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 89 K:39 BB in 120.2 IP

Ian Kennedy: 3-7, 5.29 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 94 K:43 BB in 114 IP

ROCKIES

Jorge De La Rosa: 9-5, 3.12 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 78 K:41 BB in 115.1 IP

Jhoulys Chacin: 9-4, 3.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 68 K:36 BB in 113 IP

Tyler Chatwood: 5-3, 2.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 46 K:23 BB in 70.1 IP

GIANTS

Madison Bumgarner: 10-5, 3.02 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 122 K:34 BB in 125 IP

Matt Cain: 6-6, 5.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 107 K:41 BB in 117 IP

Tim Lincecum: 5-9, 4.26 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 125 K:48 BB in 116.1 IP

PADRES

Eric Stults: 8-7, 3.40 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 79 K:27 BB in 127 IP

Jason Marquis: 9-5, 4.05 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 72 K:68 BB in 117.2 IP

Edinson Volquez: 7-8, 5.73 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 95 K:52 BB in 114.2 IP

As far as pitching goes, I rest my case….

DEADLINE DEALS

Few general managers have been as aggressive as Ned Colletti has been over the past few years. Whether it be blockbuster deals like last year’s mega-trade with Boston that netted Adrian Gonzalez, et al. or smaller deals to bring in complimentary players like Juan Rivera or Casey Blake, the Dodgers always seem to be a team certain to make a move at the trade deadline.  The Dodgers have already bolstered their rotation with the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins.

Matt Garza is the biggest name still available, but after acquiring Nolasco, look for Colletti to try and improve the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Chase Utley is another name that has been brought up in trade rumors, but I’m a fan of Mark Ellis, and I don’t think an upgrade is necessary.  Team President Stan Kasten has always stressed the importance of the farm system, and Philadelphia would certainly demand a haul of prospects for Utley.  Kasten and Colletti know that pitching will win the day, so look for the Dodgers’ to add bullpen help above anything else before the July 31st trade deadline.

Minnesota’s Glen Perkins tops the list of relievers, but he is under his club’s control through at least 2015, so he would come at the highest price.  Jesse Crain of the White Sox would be on the next tier, perhaps the best available reliever (Chicago already traded fellow Matt Thornton to Boston), Crain’s contract is up at the end of the year, and any team that trades for him risks him walking at the end of the season.

After that would be guys like the Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez, who is actually having a great season, one of his best ever (1.14 ERA, 26 K:8 BB in 23.2 IP).  However, making a modest $2 million on a minor league deal, the Brewers won’t have much incentive to trade K-Rod unless they get the prospects they want.  Or if someone takes Aramis Ramirez and his $16 million salary in 2014 off their hands. Considering that he’s on pace for career lows in all offensive categories, I dont’ see the Dodgers making that deal.
HOW GOOD CAN THE DODGERS OFFENSE BE?

We just talked about the hot hitting of  Ramirez and Ethier, while Adrian Gonzalez has continued his steady hitting, and Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis have each come up with clutch hits as well. The x-factor for the Dodgers’ offense is Matt Kemp.

Kemp looked incredible this afternoon as he had three hits, including a solo home run and three RBIs before injuring his ankle. Every Dodger fans hope is that he’s regained his groove and will become just as productive as all the rest of the Dodgers’ hitters. A healthy Kemp not only solidifies the outfield defense, but adds even more juice to a lineup that has scored the fourth most runs in the NL in July.

After warping everybody’s mind in June, Yasiel Puig has struggled in July batting only .254/.286/.642 with 21 K in 59 AB.  Kemp’s veteran presence, as well as Carl Crawford’s, will be needed in case Puig goes into a prolonged slump.

With the Dodgers sweep of the Nationals, they’ll next head north of the border to face the Toronto Blue Jays, who just got swept by the Rays.

 

About The Author

Mark was a top 52 finalist for MLB Fan Cave this past offseason. He has also interned for Fox Sports Radio and Universal Sports Network. You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkFabrick.

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