It might already be getting old to say it on this blog, but here it is again: the folks who have endlessly criticized the Dodgers this off-season have been harsh and biased. Here is a list of the complaints, once again:
1. The Dodgers don't have an ace.
2. They lost Randy Wolf and didn't get anyone to replace him, so they're down a starter from last year.
3. Related to this, they don't have a true fifth starter.
4. They didn't make any big off-season moves to make themselves better.
So the constant prediction I hear is that the Giants, and even more likely, the Rockies will win the division this season. And that's certainly not out of the question. The Rockies are good and almost gave the Dodgers a run at it last year.
But then I saw this offseason-in-review piece on the Rockies and I thought to myself, "Weird- they have a lot of the same problems as the Dodgers, but no one seems to mention it." Let's mirror the above list with the Rockies:
1. The Rockies don't have an ace, except maybe Ubaldo.
2. They lost Jason Marquis and didn't get anyone to replace him, although they'll have Jeff Francis back.
3. The Rockies do have five starters at this point, so it appears that this is in their favor.
4. The Rockies didn't make any big off-season moves to make themselves better.
Each team really did two things this off-season: held on to strong bullpens (Rockies re-signed Betancourt and extended Huston Street, who, you may remember, was horrendous in the playoffs) and solidified the bench (added Melvin Mora and retained Jason Giambi).
So let's compare: the Dodgers and Rockies both have young, unproven #1 starters (Kershaw/Ubaldo) with incredible stuff and live arms but who haven't yet put in a full, ace-quality season. Both lost starters who gave them over 200 quality innings (Wolf: 214.1 IP, 11-7, 3.23 ERA/Marquis: 216 IP, 15-13, 4.04 ERA). Both have highly questionable fifth starter situations (the Dodgers have a committee of possibilities; Francis didn't throw a single pitch in 2009, was 4-10 with a 5.01 ERA in '08, and even in '07 when he was 17-9, his ERA was 4.22). Neither team had a major off-season addition.
Even the situation with the starters in general is remarkably similar: both have a pair of hard-throwing, great stuff guys to front the rotation (Kershaw & Bills vs. Ubaldo & de la Rosa) with at least one veteran behind them (Kuroda & the Fish vs. Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel) and questions for the fifth starter. Both have young, powerful lineups with veteran presence in the middle that had excellent seasons last year. Both have good back ends of the bullpen (though Street and Betancourt both have more checkered histories, partly with health, than do Broxton and Sherrill). Both have managers that have proven they can make things happen with their teams.
I'd still give the Dodgers the overall edge, even if it's slight. That's how it went last year and there isn't a great reason to think it will be any different this year.
Which leads me to a final thesis: I can only assume that the primary reason that people say that the Dodgers will not win the division this year is because of the McCourt divorce mess. And it is a mess, but it isn't a reason to think that the Dodgers suddenly are going to collapse.