The Dodgers had an up-and-down season, coming from behind to overtake the Diamondbacks and win the N.L. West after Manny Ramirez breathed some much needed life into their offense following his acquisition at the deadline. For the final two months, Manny swung the bat like the best hitter in baseball and offset some of the other problems the team was having. But Manny can’t win a title by himself, so what do the Dodgers need to do to take out the Cubs and march towards a World Series title?
Heal Rafael Furcal
Furcal was the team’s best player for the first five weeks of the season, but then missed all but the last four games with a serious back injury. The Dodgers struggled to replace him, finally settling on Angel Berroa for most of their September playoff push. The only problem is that Berroa is horrible – he hit .230/.304/.310 in 226 at-bats and that might have been playing over his head. He racked up a -1.57 WPA/LI in just over a third of a season, a truly horrible offensive performance. Even if Furcal isn’t completely healthy, he’s almost certainly an upgrade over what they’ve had at the position. The more often they put him in the line-up, the better their chances of winning.
Use Juan Pierre as a pinch-runner only
Despite the fact that he pales in comparison the both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre has still started five of the last 15 games the Dodgers have played. Joe Torre likes putting him in the line-up despite the fact that Pierre can’t hit. He has value as a baserunner, and high leverage steals can make a big difference in a single game (Dave Roberts, anyone?), but there’s just no reason to write Pierre’s name on the line-up card. He shouldn’t start a single playoff game, and if Torre can’t resist the urge to keep him on the bench, the Dodgers will suffer for it.
Don’t be afraid to use Clayton Kershaw
While I advised the Cubs to keep their talented young pitcher to low leverage situations, I’d suggest the opposite for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw is significantly ahead of Samardzija as a pitcher, putting together a solid season as an above average starting pitcher at the age of 20. If he’s unleashed as a reliever who can throw max effort for 20-30 pitches a night, he could sit comfortably in the high-90s with a devastating breaking ball to boot. He’s good enough to be used in tight situations, and Torre should ignore the fact that he can’t legally drink yet.
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