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Monday, January 16, 2012
Trying to get that '09 feeling again ...

I'm feelin' mighty Mani-low.

Two seasons ago, when the Dodgers were the best team in the National League for much of the season and reached Major League Baseball's Final Four, they had ...
The keys to that team, in retrospect, were Andre Ethier having his best year with an .869 OPS, matched with precision by the left-field duo of Manny Ramirez and Juan Pierre (.869 OPS), and a strong season by Casey Blake at third base (.832 OPS). It didn't hurt that the team caught lightning in a sippy cup with Ronald Belisario (2.04 ERA), Ramon Troncoso (2.72 ERA) and midseason pickup George Sherrill (0.65 ERA). And Orlando Hudson made some nice contributions before giving way to Ronnie Belliard down the stretch.

Randy Wolf (3.23 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (2.79 ERA) were the Dodgers' only two starting pitchers in 2009 who were above-average for a full season.

As the 2012 Dodgers near the horizon of the coming baseball season, you can  weaknesses similar to their division-winning forerunners from 2009. The problem is not that the '09 team was perfect. The problem, for now, is that the '12 weaknesses don't really stop there – in particular, third base and left field are exceptional worry spots.

Jerry Sands and Juan Rivera really need to meet the best of expectations – which could happen, but I hope you've trained in the pool to hold your breath.  As for third baseman Juan Uribe ... the hopes dim, though either of the two seasons he had in San Francisco (.824 OPS with 16 homers, .749 OPS with 24 homers) would be a welcome start.

In order to make the playoffs, the 2012 Dodgers will need some help from some very unexpected sources, either within the organization or from the outside. The possibility should keep things interesting for a while, but that's about all you can guarantee.