Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wig Sales, Up 300%

Care to guess what today is?

That's right, the last day without Manny. I, for one, am ready for that dreadlocked lug to slowly trot back out to left.

A lot has been made lately of how successful the Dodgers have been WITHOUT Manny, and to their credit, the rest of the squad stayed well above water. Make no mistake, this team is FAR better with him than without.

It was only 50 games back, but try to remember just how incredible the Dodgers were with Manny batting third. This team was undefeated at home. Undefeated! The day Manny went down, so did the winning streak. They bounced back well, and guys like Orlando Hudson and Juan Pierre got on base so darn often that the team was able to score runs in great enough quantity to get some wins. But just about every offensive category is weaker without the pregnant wonder, and the #2 and #4 spots in the batting order have suffered, as well.

Hudson was hitting near .400 in front of Manny. His average is in the .290's now. Yes, it was going to level off on its own, but he should be able to expect a steady diet of fastballs once Manny gets his timing back. And the cleanup man, which has been just about everyone other than Juan Pierre this year, should get a chance to bat with runners in scoring position almost constantly.

The Dodgers have been slumping pretty hard offensively over the last couple weeks. It wasn't given an abundance of attention because the team continued to play near .500 baseball, but just about every win was the result of outstanding pitching. Hiroki Kuroda's return has helped immeasurably, and if Eric Stults could get fully healthy and take over the #5 starter spot, Jeff Weaver can go back to long relief and everyone can get settled into their roles. I could go on and on about roles and success, but the back end of the bullpen deserves as much credit for the Dodgers record as anyone. Ronald Bellisario and Ramon Troncoso have been solid getting the ball to Jon Broxton, and he's just been unreal. Displaying pinpoint control, and sporting a frame that looks, well, like Eric Gagne did when he was pumping steroids into his neck, Broxton is effortlessly throwing 99 and dominating the League.

It was almost like the Dodgers offense could feel that Manny was near. They seemed to be running on adrenaline and fumes, and over the last few games have let some of the air out. My guess is that the Dodgers will lose a few games while the rest of the team takes a deep breath. The All-Star break should give the regulars a nice chance to rest up, then look out!

A fantasy note. The Giants have been playing much better ball, as we mentioned a few days back on this site. Besides an incredible top of the rotation, a big reason San Francisco is turning up the heat in the NL is Catcher/Corner Infielder Pablo Sandoval. I had the rare pleasure of watching Pablo when he played in the California League (for FAR too long, mind you), and could tell pretty early on he was going to be dangerous. He's now starting to face pitchers for a second and third time, and making the necessary adjustments. Perhaps the second-hottest hitter in baseball (to Albert Pujols), you are MISSING OUT if you haven't seen one of his at-bats. He has the plate coverage of Vlad Guerrero, but he switch-hits, and for a portly youngster, has decent quicks. Pablo would be a colossal trade piece in Keeper Leagues, and a nice grab in all others, if you can get him. This hot streak is NOT a fluke - the kid can hit.


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