David Lauterbach of True Blue LA was kind enough to participate in a Q&A with me about the upcoming NLDS. David had some great insight on the strengths and weaknesses of the Dodgers and what he is worried about with regards to the Braves. David also asked me a few questions which will be up over at True Blue LA. Be sure to check it out and to check into their site for any news or updates on the Dodgers.
Also be sure to check out the Q&A I did with them over at TBLA.
BD: Who has been the most important member of the team this season?
DL: Hanley Ramirez. I know a lot of people have talked about Clayton Kershaw's ridiculously good season or Yasiel Puig's incredible rookie campaign, but in the end, it has to be Hanley. He finished the season with a slash line of .345/.402/.638 which is really good. He also hit 20 homers and had 57 RBIs in only 86 games. Without Hanley, I don't think the Dodgers would've won the division and based on records, made it to the Wild Card game. He was the real heart and soul of this team.
BD: What made the Dodgers the best team in the west this year?
DL: Depth. Before the season started everyone was talking about the Dodgers' eight man rotation but not about their hitting depth. While they ended up using a ridiculous amount of starting pitchers, their position player depth was crucial to their success. The only starting position player that was healthy from Opening Day until October was Adrian Gonzalez. That's ridiculous. If the Dodgers didn't have the depth they had, they might not have won 85 games. I say that because Hanley Ramirez missed a good chunk of the season, Matt Kemp basically missed the entire season, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier missed multiple weeks, and the same goes for A.J. Ellis and Mark Ellis. If Los Angeles didn't have the kind of depth that it has, the Diamondbacks would've won the division.
BD: What is the one thing you think can make the Dodgers World Series champions this season?
DL: Pitching. Every time someone asks me why I think the Dodgers will it all I say it's because of their pitching. Los Angeles probably won't have home-field advantage for the entire playoffs. As a result, they need good pitching in games one and two to help them take a 2-0 lead or at least a 1-1 tie back to Los Angeles. That shouldn't be hard for this team with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke starting the first two games. Some teams might be able to beat them both once, but to beat both of them twice is nearly impossible, and if teams want to beat the Dodgers, the only way to do that would be to sweep them. So, pitching will help them the most in the long run.
BD: What or who might prevent the the Dodgers from making it to the NLCS?
DL: Matt Kemp. While he didn't play much this season, his bat is still so scary that it changes the whole dynamic of the lineup. Skip Schumaker might have to start in centerfield if Andre Ethier isn't healthy, and I think that could really hurt them. A lineup that includes Kemp, Hanley, Puig, Crawford, and Gonzalez is much scarier and tougher to face than one without Kemp at all.
BD: What is the Dodgers’ biggest weakness?
DL: Lack of postseason experience. I know that sounds crazy but think about it. Carl Crawford has a lot in his time with the Rays, Adrian Gonzalez played four playoff games with the Padres in 2006, and Hanley and Puig have never played in the playoffs. At the same time, Kershaw got rocked in his only playoff start of his career. Postseason experience is key in my mind to success because October is extremely different than every other month of the baseball season.
BD: What is their biggest strength?
DL: Pitching. Like I said a couple questions ago, Kershaw and Greinke along with Hyun-Jin Ryu is so strong that I don't know if any team has a good chance at winning two of those first three games. Pitching wins in October and the Dodgers have arguably the best starting pitching in the playoffs. I think it's far and away their biggest strength.
BD: How confident are you in Don Mattingly entering the playoffs?
DL: Very. Donnie Baseball was practically told by Team President Stan Kasten at one point the team might have to make a change in the manager position at one point when the Dodgers were losing A LOT in early and mid June. Mattingly accepted the fact and then led the Dodgers on an incredible 42-8 run. I think he should be fine.
BD: What worries you most about facing the Braves?
DL: Their pitching. Mike Minor has been pitching well and so has Kris Medlen. The Dodgers have a great lineup that can either tear apart a pitching staff or go into a big slump. I think if a team is going to knock Los Angeles out of the playoffs, it'll be because their pitching completely shuts down LA's lineup. Atlanta has great pitching and I honestly think they might be able to do that.
BD: How worried are you about the injuries to the outfielders?
DL: Very worried. If Andre Ethier can't play at all in October it might hurt the Dodgers a lot. Scott Van Slyke is a good hitter but not a great fielder. So the team might have to decide if they want a better defensive team out there or a better offensive team. If Kemp and Ethier were healthy I would 100% be comfortable saying the Dodgers will win it all. But with them not healthy, I'll put their chances closer to 60%. If all of LA's outfielders were healthy in the World Series, they could have a lineup that looks like this: Puig, Crawford, Hanley, Gonzalez, Kemp, Ethier, Juan Uribe, A.J. Ellis, and Mark Ellis. Now that's just scary.