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The Second Time Around PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 12 July 2012 04:46

MARK J. TERRILL/AP PHOTO

Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp looks on during batting practice prior to their baseball game against the Chicago White Sox.

Both The Dodgers And Angels Are Positioned To Make The Playoffs, But Both Also Need Some Things To Go Right In The Second Half

With the All-Star break in the review mirror, both the Dodgers and Angels resume their 2012 playoff chase. And although both teams are in good standing(s) at the moment for a playoff berth (especially with two wild card slots this year), they have taken opposite paths to reach this point.

Los Angeles (47-40) started the season red hot, going 16-7 in April. They have gone 31-23 since, but lost 15 of their last 20 going into the break. Somehow, someway, they still lead the National League West, albeit by a half-game over the San Francisco Giants.

Anaheim (48-38) – and let's just call them Anaheim for brevity's sake – began the season packed in ice. The Angels got off to their worst start in franchise history (6- 14), and that's saying something considering the franchise's history. But they rebounded to win 42 of their next 66, and were 13-7 in their last 20 games. They are currently in second place in the American League West, trailing first place Texas by four games.

The Dodgers return to regular season play on Friday at home against San Diego – which, by the way, won six in a row before the break. The Angels also resume on Friday on the road against the Yankees, who have the best record in baseball (52- 33).

MARK DUNCAN/AP PHOTO

Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout heads to the on deck circle to start a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians.

There are, as usual, various variables that will ultimately decide the postseason hopes for both teams.

Here are a few to consider, starting with…

Health

For the Dodgers, it's simple. They need both Matt Kemp (left hamstring) and Andre Ethier (left oblique) back in their lineup, and back to the form both displayed in the first half.

When Kemp (.355, 12 home runs, 28 RBI) was looking like the game's best player in April and May, and Ethier (.291, 10, 55) was leading the league in runs batted in, they were able to mask the other weaknesses in the Dodger lineup. But since both have been hurt, the offense has become invisible. In those last 20 games, the Dodgers have averaged 2.15 runs a contest, and scored more than five runs only once. On the plus side, solid No.2 hitter Mark Ellis is back and appears fully recovered from his leg injury. But leadoff hitter Dee

Gordon, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, probably won't return until early to mid-August. Gordon leads the majors in stolen bases (30), and without him the Dodgers have a harder time manufacturing runs.

Now that Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales have begun to hit consistently the Angels' lineup, fueled by young All-Star sensations Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, is looking as potent as those of the Rangers, Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox. In their last 20 games, for example, the Halos have averaged a healthier 5.7 runs.

The injury bug has bitten in a more vulnerable spot, however; the starting pitching rotation.

Jared Weaver remains the ace and most durable starter. After that (deep breath)…C.J. Wilson had a blister on his left middle finger and had to miss the All- Star Game. Dan Heron went on the disabled list with back spasms, and Jerome Williams was sidelined by a respiratory problem. Ervin Santana just hasn't been himself.

Which brings up the possibility of…

Trades

To be honest, neither team has a bunch of deal-ready prospects in their respective farm systems, nor do they have players other teams crave or they want to part with.

It's hard to imagine fellow GMs knocking down the Dodgers' Ned Colletti's door and begging him to deal James Loney, Juan Uribe, Juan Rivera, Tony Gwynn Jr., or Elian Herrera, to name a few.

Likewise, the Angels' Jerry Dipoto shouldn't expect many return calls by offering Vernon Wells (still on the disabled list), Macier Izturis, Bobby Wilson and John Hester.

When it comes to each team's best prospects, they're already here.

That leaves the waiver wire, but because both teams are high in the standings, the teams with lesser records would have the first claim on available players – not a great roll of the dice.

Then there's the role that Fate will play in the second half with the…

Schedule

The Dodgers have 75 games remaining; the Angels 76. Interestingly, both start up the second half with gauntlet runs in July that won't win the divisions, but could help lose the divisions.

After the Padres series, the Dodgers have three home games against the Phillies (with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both back in the Philadelphia lineup) before going on the road to face the Mets, Cardinals and Giants. The Mets nearly swept the Dodgers in a recent four-game series in Los Angeles; St. Louis in July and August is miserably hot and humid; and the Giants threw three straight shutouts against the Dodgers the last week in June.

To increase the feelings of trepidation, the Dodgers are 20-24 overall on the road so far.

Anaheim is also facing a brutal stretch, that pretty much covers the rest of July. Following the Yankees series, the Angels remain on the road to play four in Detroit, before coming home to face Texas and Tampa Bay, then finishing the month in Texas.

August has stiff tests as well.

Any combination of cold bats and noodle arms could prove disastrous.

Most teams like to be within 5-6 games of a division or wild card leader going into September. That means not falling apart in July and August.

Some Final Thoughts

Those aren't the only issues facing the respective teams. Other questions include:

Can the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley (4-9, 4.30) and the Angels' Santana (4-9, 5.75) snap our of their respective first half funks and contribute positively down the stretch?

Can Trout (.341, 12, 40) and Trumbo (306, 22, 57) keep up the pace they have set so far, or does the pressure of the pennant race grind them down?

If Trout does continue his remarkable play and help the Angels into the playoffs, could he join Boston's Fred Lynn and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki as the only players to win Rookie-of the-Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season?

When Gordon returns, can he get on base enough to give the Dodgers some desperately needed speed and energy at the top of the lineup?

Can managers Don Mattingly (Dodgers) and Mike Scioscia (Angels) keep from overworking their bullpens, especially in the August and September heat?

The answers will have so much to do with what can or does happen in October.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 12 July 2012 04:50
 




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