Conversations With the Enemy: 2012 Rockies/Dodgers Preview

Continuing our series bantering back and forth with writers from other teams within the division, this installment features thoughts on the Dodgers and questions on the Rockies from Scott Andes and Stacie Wheeler.

Michelle: With a Cy Young and a should’ve-been MVP, what else can the Dodgers possibly need to get back to the postseason?

Scott – Lasorda’s Lair

A lot, but not as much as you might think. Right now the Dodgers are a team and roster in transition. As McCourt sells the team, and a new ownership team comes in, the team is broke. And will be until ownership changes hands next April. Until then the Dodgers are filling roster holes as cheaply as they can, mediocre vets continue to be signed. It’s the same thing, rinse and repeat. However, the Dodgers could be a sleeper team next year. They still have the best position player in the National League in Matt Kemp, and the best pitcher in the league in Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and his utter domination of all opponents. The Dodgers need better supporting players next to Kemp and Kershaw.

The pitching staff is generally solid, but power, specifically infield power, has been their weakness. Signing Juan Rivera will help, but they will need internal options to produce next year if they want to be competitive. They’ll need power from other players besides Kemp. We’ll need Ethier to come back healthy from knee surgery, we’ll need Rivera to hit 15-20 homers, and we will need Loney to continue his phoenix from the ashes resurrection. Uribe needs to prove he can produce as well. Losing Kuroda will hurt, but the rotation is still pretty decent. in short the Dodgers will need to score more runs in 2012 and hit more home runs. Better run production from the corner infield positions will be critical. If the Dodgers can finish in the top tier in home runs, and runs scored, they could be a sleeper in 2012.

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

The Dodgers should have a good chance to reach the postseason as long as they put two good halves together. Last season we had a horrible first half, but we played surprisingly well in the second half. We need Loney, Uribe, and Ethier to be productive alongside Kemp and for Chad Billingsley to be a strong #2 guy behind Kershaw. Our big issue last year was lack of offense, so if we can help Kemp out in that department we should be competitive.

Stacie: With Huston Street‘s departure do you think Betancourt can take over the closer role? And how does the Rockies rotation look for next season?

Michelle – Rox Pile

I’m very confident that Betancourt is ready to be the closer. It’s true that he hasn’t been tested in that role in high-stakes situations yet, but he has quietly become one of the most reliable pitchers in our bullpen over the past few years, and in late 2011 he proved he can handle the 9th inning. His WHIP over nearly three seasons with Colorado is 0.90, so he keeps runners off base. That’s much more than can be said for the departing Huston Street. Street has great stuff, but he was too slippery to be counted on. It remains to be seen whose career numbers will be best in the end (Betancourt is 8 years older, so his end is nearer), but Betancourt is who the Rockies need right now.

As for the rotation, that is still very much up in the air. We have at least seven pitchers who will be competing for a spot in spring training, plus Jorge De La Rosa will be back, hopefully sooner than later. Word is that Dan O’Dowd is still on the hunt for another veteran starter, so that brings us to nine guys. Many of them have potential superstar talent (Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz), but they’re all still too young to tell for sure. So the biggest weakness in our rotation for next year is instability. We don’t know who all will be starting games, and we don’t know for sure how good any of those guys will be.

Scott: Why did the Rockies trade Ubaldo Jimenez? Was it just to dump salary? Or was it just go get prospects? Also are any of those prospects received in the Jimenez trade Major League ready?

Michelle – Rox Pile

I’m still very conflicted about the Ubaldo trade. It was a terrible terrible day. As far as I can tell, O’Dowd did it because he was performing way below expectations, and because the Rockies were a selling team at the trade deadline. It seems like O’Dowd was trying to wring every last drop of value out of Ubaldo by unloading him on a team desperate to make the postseason. Of course, that did not pay off for the Indians, though we’ll see how much Ubaldo can give them in the future. As for what we got in return, I really really like what we saw out of Drew Pomeranz in September. He has confidence, maturity (on the field anyway), and great command. He could be a future Ubaldo. The thing is, he isn’t one yet, and the other big name we got in the trade hasn’t panned out. That’s Alex White, who gave up more home runs in just 36 1/3 innings pitched than all but three other Rockies pitchers. He has not yet shown that he can adapt his splitter to our thin air, which is a shame, because it’s a beauty. If it turns out that he can’t pitch well for us, then the trade was really Ubaldo for Pomeranz. Not sure yet if that’s a win for us.

Check out Lasorda’s Lair for updates on the Dodgers and follow me, Stacie, and Scott on Twitter.

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