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Sunday, October 16, 2011

DBF 2011 Dodgers Season in Recap

As the dawn of the 2011 Dodgers baseball season began, Stacie and I started our first full season of chronicling the Dodgers. Hope sprung eternal, as the Dodgers made a flury of moves during the offseason. not without much debate though. there was no huge star signing, but a bunch of average and below average signings sparked the debate even before spring training began.
Was it quantity over quality? you decide.

after the shrewd trading of the completly useless Ryan Theriot, for young relief pitcher Blake Hawksworth. The Dodgers made their big offseason splash by signing Juan Uribe to a 3 year 21 million dollar contract. coming off of his 24 homerun 85 RBI season with the FORMER (fluke championship) world series champion Giants, was epexcted to provide the Dodgers with the power they sorley needed. they also added setup man Matt Guerrier, coming over from the American League. left fielder Marcus Thames, and notorious innings eater Jon Garland. Vicente Padilla was resigned to fill in when and where he could, with Ace Clayton Kershaw, and what was supposed to be a rebound year from Matt KeMvP (whooa boy KeMvP), a new coaching staff announced in november, and a new voice in the clubhouse, rookie manager Don Mattingly, there was initial excitement. things were fun fun fun in the least for a little while.

while we grew accustomed to a rookie manager, and spring training started to take shape, I wondered how I would make it through the long stretch drive in August, as Stacie's second child was due in August, and she was Disabled because of child berthing when Little Ali Wheeler decided she wanted out only hours after Stacie covered a game. well get to that later.

but as soon as the fun began, the bad news started to slowly trickle in. in feburary we learned that for the third straight year, Ronald Belisario would not only not make it to Spring Training on time, but he would miss the season entirely unable to make it into the Country because of Visa Problems.

after Belisario's murky whereabouts were announced, the first injury of 2011 soon followed. Vicente Padilla, who was signed more as a staff utility guy, underwent surgery to fix a reccuring injury to a nerve in his forearm. he was expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. but no biggie we signed Jon Garland so we should be all good right.....well about that.....

Garland suffered a torn oblique in basically his first spring game of the year, and landed right on the disabled list. the injuries wouldnt stop there though, oh no they wouldnt....

in early march, Manager Don Mattingly asked Casey Blake to lay down a bunt, and he tweeked out his back. with his lower back in rustyness, Blake began the year on the disabled list.

as the Dodgers played poorly during the spring, they were forced to shuffle their cards due to injury. the original starting infield of Blake, Furcal, Uribe, and Loney, only played together two games during the first half, and Juan Uribe had to be moved to third base to replace Blake.

as spring training concluded, we got a chance to see several non-roster players we would normally not get to see. players like Aaron Miles, Hector Gimenez, and Mike Macdougal. While Macdougal (Dougie) somehow stayed on with the team, catcher/first baseman Hector Gimenez would only last 7 at bats before tearing his knee up and never to return.

because of the injury to Padilla and Belisario's disappearence, The Dodgers were forced to start the year with Dougie, Lance Cormier (uggghhh) and John Ely in the bullpen. this gave us returning nightmares of last year's reclamation project Ortizi.

but Padilla and Garland were due back in late April, and so was Blake, and certainly the Dodgers could get through a few weeks without tottally screwing up the first part of the year right?

of coarse our MVP center fielder who I have an admitted man crush on would have a season for the ages. after the former coaching staff did nothing but scream at him, and after breaking off his much publicised relationship with pop star Rhianna, KeMvP refocused on his game, and boy did he ever.....

there was also Ace lefty Clayton Kershaw, who dominated all opponents with his magnificence. but we knew that already.....

well.......and then of coarse there was Jonathon Broxton. after last years second half collapse, it was painfully clear that Broxton's arm was completly blown to smithereens, ending his Dodger and possible his Baseball career. it was obvious. still Broxton had a quiet spring, and despite him losing a full 6-8 MPH off his fastball, we still clung to hope that he could still be an effective closer.

Spring Training ended with Broxton blowing a meaningless game. depsite knowing he was finished as a major league pitcher, Stacie and I still held out hope that he could rebound and called for fairness.

our calls for fairness would later be replaced by our calls of agony. you will see why later.

While April was a .500 month for the Dodgers, it was filled with controversy. With the ownership situation unfolding, the Dodgers began their 2011 schedule at home agaist the Giants. Follow the links below to see the highlights and lowlights of the first half of the season.

The Dodgers would score a tremendous victory on opening day. beating the hated Giants 2-1. Kershaw beat Lincecum. his first of five victories against the Giants. the first run scoring on an error by Buster Posey, and the second run being knocked in off an RBI double from Loney.
Broxton while allowing a homerun to the second hitter he faced, still got the job done by saving the first three out of four games.

The Dodgers would come from behind to win the second game.........

Matt KeMvP and Kiroki Kuroda would help the Dodgers secure their first winning series of the season.

but tradgedy would strike Chavez Ravine. immediatly following the opening day game, Giants fan Bryan Stow was nearly beaten to death in the Dodger stadium parking lot, by two psychotic thugs.
the two thugs were finally brought to justice later in the year, Stow remained in a medically induced coma clinging to life as his family sued Dodger stadium for lack of security.

Things would only get worse from their. after the Dodgers dropped a pari of games in Colorado, they had to play two games in one night, after one of their games was suspended due to rain while tied in the 9th inning.
the game resumed with the Dodger taking the lead for good. they won the night cap too, and as Vin Scully said that night "here we go again"

unfortunatly Casey Blake's return from the DL was short lived after a collision with Chase Headly.

after John Ely's lone start of 2011 ended with a loss to San Diego.

The Dodgers opened their first series of the season in San Francisco. it was not a good one for the Dodgers....

Rafeal Furcal (Hit Machine) broke his thumb while sliding into third base. this landed him on the DL for several weeks.
fortunatly for the Dodgers, the dependable Jamey Carroll came to the rescue providing his usual solid work at shortstop,

and after Ted Lilly (who was the but of many jokes as he allowed homerun after homerun and many stolen bases) did the unthinkable by allowing a go-ahead homerun to Mike Fontenot that landed in the McCovey cove.

The Dodgers returned home down but not out. but after three straight blowout losses to the Cardinals, things looked bleak. until our MVP Matt KeMvP had enough........

Finally in order to improve the non-existant offense the Dodgers called up PCL rookie slugger Jerry Sands. Jerry started by doubling in his first at bat, and driving in a run with a sac fly. leading the Dodgers to a win against the Braves.

however after the ownership battle between Frank Mccourt and MLB commissioner Bud Selig came to a head, as Selig and MLB announced a planned takeover of all Dodger finances. McCourt cried wolf as he threatened to sue, while still attempting to assure us that by selling off the Dodgers TV right's would bring the Dodgers out of their financial troubles.

we were shocked, as attendance declined. however Matt KeMvP would hit his second walk-off homer of the homestand lifting the Dodgers to victory over the Braves.

The bizzarre injuries continued for the Dodgers, especially for poor Casey Blake, who was in his final year of his contract.
Blake after playing a game at wrigley field, suffered some kind of wierd staff infection in his elbow and had to be hospitalized.
more bad news later, as the first of many bullpen meltdowns saw the Dodgers drop a game to the Cubs.

another classic Jonathon Broxton 2 out 9th inning meltdown left us all fuming as the Dodgers blew a game in florida, with help from a Carroll fielding error of coarse. we had finally seen enough of Broxton's blown arm induced meltdowns....I mean come on enough was enough right? Stacie correctly identifies the end of Broxton's career as a Dodger.

this was nothing new to Stacie and I. after last years major meltdowns, we were able to easily spot and predict the impending bullpen implosions. with this year though it was different. the meltdowns were more precise and final. there would be no extra-innings like last year, the game's were blown completly away in the 9th innings, often times with 2 outs and nobody on base. yes the bullpen would blow any and all leads obtained.
Often 5 or 6 run leads would be blown in a blink of an eye.
On april 1st, Andre Ethier would get a hit. this seemingly meaningless hit, would start the beginning of a record 30 game Dodger hitting streak. a wonderful reprieve from the losing that would continue throughout the first half.

Ethier, who had a solid all-star season despite a knee injury that prevented him from hitting homeruns at his usual pace, single-handedly beat the Marlins, with a heroic homerun giving the Dodgers a mircaulous victory, and extending his streak.

while KeMvp and Ethier were crushing the ball, Uribe and Loney struggled. Uribe was a momumentally embrassing disaster. a Bum of epic proportions. while Uribe struggled to stay above the mendoza line, Loney also struggled while hitting nothing but weak little groundballs. earning his nickname of "groundball" Loney. he would later atone in the second half.

in Late arpil Tony Gwynn Jr. son of former batting champion Tony Gywnn Sr. made the first of his two game saving flying catches to preserve Dodger victorys. this saved us from what was an obvious two out 9th inning Jonathon Broxton meltdown. while Andre Ethier extended his record hit streak to 25 games.

Andre Ethier with a three hit game, extends his hitting streak to 30 games. moving into second place on the all time Dodger hit streak record books. only 1 behind Willie Davis' 31 game streak.

Andre Ethier's 30 game hitting streak, was unceremoniously ended while in New York.
oh and the Bullpen blew another game in New York........

Ethier saved the Dodgers and our sanities from an embarassing sweep, with another game winning homerun....

while the Dodgers were blowing out the Pirates, Hong-Chih Kuo was put on the disabled list because of an Anxiety disorder. with Kuo down, Jansen a sore shoulder, the Dodgers were defensless in the late innings.

We all continued to be intoxicated with Kershaw's magnificent doinance on every level. he whiffed 11 Dbacks during this game in May.....

Stacie and I attended a game against the Dbacks. Bills pitched a 1 hitter and lost....the only run scoring on a botched pickoff play and a sacrifice fly.

hey check out this forfiet concoction from Don Mattingly. one of his many first half indescretions.

despite pitching with nearly no run support whatsoever, Hiroki Kuroda still comes up a hiro....

As the Giants returned to Dodger stadium, we witnessed the Dodgers rally for three runs to tie the game, off a groundball single from Loney, that seemed to be on the back of an invisible winged guardian. followed by us forced to watch an unspeakable horror. Mattingly let Lance Cormier pitch the 9th inning of a tie game. several meatballs later Cody Ross crushed a three run homerun just inside the left field foul pole.....

I won the first of two Dodgerbobble contests.....

as the Dodgers began their interleague schedule in Chicago, Jon Garland made his final start before succumbing to shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. he would not pitch again.
with the Dodgers down 3-2 in the 9th inning, down to their last out, Bench man Russ Mitchell launched his hail mary homerun just inside the foul pole to tie the game. The Dodgers followed with a three run rally in extras, highlighted by Juan Castro batting with the bases loaded. the miracle win followed a game filled wtih fog...

Hit Machine returns to the lineup, pushing the dependable hard working Jamey Carroll back to the bench.

while playing a series in Houston, Andre Ethier's pinch hit tied the game for the Dodgers, but Strikeout machine Kenley Jansen, blew the tie in the 9th inning.

Fireballing Rookie Phenom, Rubby De La Rosa, who ends up filling in for the injured Jon Garland, makes his MLB debut in Houston for the Dodgers, helping them to victory. Jerry Sands blasted a grand slam

Matt Guerrier blows another game against the Astros. nothing new here......

Because of Injuries the Marlins are forced to use their entire bullpen through the entire game. The Dodgers are unable to hit the fishpen....

Clayton Kershaw continued hs wonderful dominance. his two hit shutout gives the Dodgers a win against the Marlins. Kersh whiffed 10 fish that day.

Bills followed up the next day with a win of his own......

A Dodger sweep of Colorado is spoiled by a shutout from Ubaldo Jimenez. Rookie reliever Josh Lindblom also debuts

There was absoltuly no way of stopping Matt KeMvP this season. his MVP year continued as the Dodgers played a road series in Cincinnati. KeMvP's onslought on National League pitching and the triple crown threat was unstoppable. his grand slam homerun brought the Dodgers a victory during an historic come from behind win.

um yeah Matt KeMvP again......

After Furcal tore his oblique muscle on a throw to second base in Houston. Rookie Shortstop Dee Gordon was called up to fill in. he made his first start against Philadelphia collecting three hits in a Dodger victory. it would be their only victory against the Phillies in 6 head to head games.

The Dodgers bullpen blows another game in Colorado. needless to say Stacie and I were pretty pissed as the loss dropped the Dodgers into last place.

KeMvP hit a ball into the next universe to spark a 9th inning rally that fell just short.....

Tony Gwynn Jr. picks up his second game saving flying catch. preserving a Dodger win and a save for rookie Javy Guerra.

Once the Dodgers returned home to begin their longest homestand of the year, a 12 gamer, Dee Gordon made his debut at home a smashing success! unfortunatly Matt Guerrier ruined it.....

Despite another dominating performence against the reds, Kershaw gets only a no-decision. this time its Blake Hawksworth blowing this game....

After being swept by the Reds, the Dodgers drop two out of three to the lowly Astros. were saved the emabarassment of a home sweep, thanks to the heroics of Hirokie Kuroda, and a solo homerun from Dioner Navarro on Father's day....

Clayton Kershaw completly shuts down the vaunted Tiger's lineup, by pitching a two hit shutout, and whiffing the side in the 9th inning and beating former Dodger Brad Penny....

The Dodgers lose a game to the Angels, despite the Halos committing TOOTBLANs throughout the game....

in the final game of the homestand, Clayton Kershaw and Halos ace Jerred Weaver do battle, until they both are out of the game, as the Dodgers pull out a win in the 9th inning on a walk-off hit from Tony Gwynn Jr.

The Dodgers have one of the most lopsided games in blue history pounding out 15 runs and 25 hits in a 15-0 drubbing of the Twins in Minnesota....

In the final game of the series rookie Rubby De La Rosa gives up a run in the first inning and that was it. as the Dodgers were shut out in Minnesota 1-0....

As the Dodgers headed into July, we could only watch with hopeless terror as the boys in blue plummetted into last place and couldnt get out. as Injuries, poor hitting, and bullpen metldowns continued to doom the Dodgers, Stacie and I and the rest of Dodgertown prepared ourselves for our inevitable nightmarish descent into hell.....but things would slowly begin to change as the all-star break approached.

The Dodgers started July off on a winning note by beating the Angels in Anaheim 5-0, behind Kuroda....

As Hit Machine returns and Dee Gordon is sent back down, the Dodgers lose their final interleague game of the year, thanks to a Russell Branyan homer....

on July 4th, De La Rosa has a terrible start as the Dodgers will soon discover a tear in his arm that will end his season....

Kuroda picks up his 10th loss in his 100th start in a loss to the Mets.....

Things began to change though as the Dodgers won their final four games before the all-star break....

Clayton Kershaw.....yep.....

Then there is another victory against the Padres, Bills pitches a shutout, and Guerra works out of a nobody out bases loaded jam to pick up a save....

The next day in a game that saw only 1 hit between both teams until the 9th inning, the Dodgers who did not have a single hit walk off with a victory in the bottom of the 9th. the two worst hitters on the team came through. Uribe doubles, and Dioner "Pudjito" Navarro singles home Uribe for the winning run....

The Dodgers ended the first half of the season with a win and a four game winning streak. Andre Ethier slams two homeruns in the Dodgers sweep of the Padres. The Dodgers finish the first half with a 41-51 record. as KeMvP, Kershaw, and Ethier are all selected to the all-star game.

during the all-star break the Dodgers made a move that was very quietly announced. they acquired former Angel outfielder Juan Rivera, and desginated the useless Marcus Thames for assignment.

While KeMvP, Kershaw, and Ethier were helping the National League beat the American League for the second year in a row in the All-Star Game, The rest of the Dodgers were flying to Arizona to begin a roadtrip.

Despite a nightmarish first half, winds of change would begin to blow through Dodgertown, as we would watch the Dodgers finish with one of the best records in the second half and get back to .500.

in the second half we would see Clayton Kershaw and Matt KeMvP continue to have seasons for the ages as they completly dominated all opponents. We drink in Kershaw's magnificent dominance of all opponents, as he was on his way to winning the pitching triple crown.
Matt KeMvP falls just one home run short of a 40/40 season, while leading the league in homeruns, RBI, runs scored, and total bases.

we saw Juan Rivera acquired from the Blue Jays from waivers seemingly grabbed out of the trash bin. Rivera would supply lineup protection for KeMvP that the Dodgers would sorly need.

we would see COC graduate Dana Eveland filing in for the injured Rubby De La Rosa and pick up his first win in a rain makeup win in Pittsburgh.

we would see a flury of Dodger rookies come to the rescue. we would see Dee Gordon return, Josh Lindblom catching a red eye flight from Albuquerque arriving just in time to help the Dodgers get out of a late inning jam preserving a Dodger win in Pittsburgh.

we would say a sad goodbye to Hit Machine as he would be traded to the Cardinals.

Then we would see rookie Dee Gordon amaze us with his game changing speed while taking home NL rookie of the month honors for september

We would see a new and improved and resurgent James Loney with his new swing, that not ironically coincided with the firing of hitting coach Jeff Pentland and the promotion of Dave Hansen into this role.

we would see the Dodgers trade rookie outfielder and top hitting prospect Trayvon Robinson for catching prospect Tim Federowicz and two pitchers.

we would see Stacie give birth to Aliana Wheeler only hours after covering a Dodger win, and then land on the disabled list for a month.

we saw Vin Scully, the greatest sports braodcaster in the history of sports announce his return for 2012, gracing us with his wonderful voice.

we would see the one thing that Frank McCourt could never ever steal from us...ever.....hope......he cant take away our hope......
Remember guys, dont ever lose hope, dont ever give up. no matter how the Dodgers play, we wil always be here. we wont bore you with pointless adavanced stat calculations and formulas. or annoying win graphs. this blog is an everyman blog, for the true blue Dodger fans. the fans that grew up in the Dodger culture. the fans that were Born into Blue. Join us next year as Stacie and I cover another exciting year of Dodger Baseball! thank you all for reading!

as we continue to chronicle the Dodgers Baseball Seasons, our DBF season in recap will become a tradition after the season ends. expect more posts in the upcoming weeks. the hot stove is ready to start.

I would love to say more about the second half but Stacie is already coming to the plate.....swing away Stac!


The Year Of the Bison

2011 was a rollercoaster of a season that started out abysmal, but finished somewhat better. We witnessed both arguably the best player in baseball, Matt Kemp, and surely the worst player in baseball, Eugenio Velez. We suffered major rustiness and were plagued with many trips to the DL. By the start of the second half of the season we had already lost Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla to season ending injury, and others were soon to follow suit. At the All-Star Break the Dodgers had a disappointing  41-51 record.  We basically had not chance at that point of any playoff hopes. We were depressed, rusty, and Groundball Loney had yet to reclaim his place as an honest to goodness major league player. Yet with all the losing, Broxton blowouts, Donnie’s love of bunting and allowing fatty Navarro to pinch-hit in the 9th inning, and more losing, we managed to pick ourselves up and actually finish the season with a winning record. How did we do it?

We took out the trash. The first item of business that was announced was on July 12th during the All-Star Break. They finally DFA’d useless Marcus Thames and picked up Juan Rivera from the scrap heap after the Blue Jays let him go. Juan would be integral in the Dodgers turn around in the second half. He finished with a respectable .274 batting average, 5 homeruns and 46 RBIs with the Dodgers. Later on we would cut lose the horrid Dioner Navarro as well.

We actually won some games and series. The Dodgers continued to win after the All-Star Break, and won their 5th game in a row off of Kersh’s 10th victory against the D-Backs on July 15th.  The newbie Rivera even hit his 7th homerun of the season, which was on his first pitch as a Dodger.

We retain our core. By July 22, the Dodgers were mired in last place in the NL West and swirling trade rumors regarding Hiroki Kuroda were rampant. Although many less than blue Dodger fans called for him to allow himself to be traded for perhaps some mediocre prospects, we at DBF said he would stay, and he did. His loyalty to the team was refreshing, and his contribution to the team in 2011 was tremendous. Hiro finished the season with a 13-16 record, pitching 202 innings, whiffing 161, and had an impressive 3.07 ERA.

We usher in the new. At the trade deadline, July 31st, we said goodbye to Hit Machine (Rafael Furcal) as it was made official that he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor league outfielder and some cash. Furcal was injury plagued all season and spent a month on the DL for a broken thumb and then another month long stint from a torn oblique. He had a disappointing 2011 with the Dodgers, but he is now playing in the NLCS with the Cardinals and we wish him the best! Another trade came seconds before the 1pm deadline and sent shock waves through the Dodger community. Trayvon Robinson, a top prospect, was involved in a 3-way trade between us and Boston and Seattle. Trayvon went to the Mariners and the Dodgers picked up two minor league pitchers and a catcher, FedEx. With the departure of Hit Machine, a new age came upon the Dodgers at shortstop with the rookie debut of Dee Gordon. More about him in a bit.

The Dodgers finished July with a 12-13 record.  They had taken over third place, and were 64-70.  Hot August would see the rookie debut of yet another pitcher vying for that cursed 5th spot. Nathan Eovaldi who will be making his case for the 5th spot in 2012, made his first start on August 6th vs. the D-Backs. The young 21 year old pitched 5 innings picking up his first win as the Dodgers beat the D-Backs 5-3.

By mid August we found ourselves being swept by the Phillies at home. One of the most sickening games of the season came on August 10th when the Dodgers blew a 6 run lead and lost to the Filthies 9-8. Billingsley was awful in this game, there were some bumbling errors, yada yada and the Dodgers lose in typical 2011 style. After the pathetic series with the Phillies, the Dodgers need some easy wins to make themselves feel better, and playing the Houston Astros always seems to do the trick, right? The Dodgers sweep the Astros and it’s a nice little departure from all the losing.

The Dodgers Beer Trip 2011 began in Milwaukee, and the Dodgers narrowly avoid being swept by the far superior Brew Crew as Clayton Kershaw picks up his 15th win on August 18th. After they chug a Miller, they get on a plane to the Rocky Mountains of Denver to partake in an ice cold Coors. And yes the Dodgers were also ice cold when they lose the series after another crappy Billingsley start in the rubber game. Bills melts down in the 7th, and the Dodgers blow another one. The Dodgers then head to Busch Stadium to beer bong a Budweiser and take on the Red Birds. Sadly we must encounter our friend Hit Machine now wearing a crimson cap, and the likes of former Dodger losers like TOOTBLAN Theriot and Bumtel. Ok, how did they get into the NLCS with those two guys? At this point the Cardinals were actually 8.5 games back of Milwaukee in the NL Central. They really turned things around and stole the Wild Card from the Braves. THEN they beat the Filthies, which was wonderfulness so thank you St. Louis, thank you.

Anyways, the Dodgers are in last place now.  August 22nd we witnessed a marvelous come from behind win at the hands of Aaron Miles. Down 1-0 in the top of the 9th inning, Aaron Miles’ game tying hail Mary RBI triple scored Justin Sellers to tie the game, and the winning run scored on the next play, a Fielder's choice grounder that our beloved former shortstop Hit Machine dropped and threw wide to home plate, allowed Miles to score the winning run. Aaron Miles all surprised us this year with his surprisingly usefulness. He finished the season with a .275 average, 45 RBIs, and 125 hits.

More rubbish removal is clearly needed. We finally get our wish and Dioner Navarro is cut from the team on August 24th. He was god-awful all season, yet they kept him around for no apparent reason.  He hit a paltry .193 in 64 games with only 34 hits, 5 homeruns, and 17 RBIs. A true auto out indeed. He also was supposedly not preparing himself for games, and Donnie ain’t havin’ none of that. That didn’t come soon enough for us though. We had been calling for A.J. Ellis’s return for quite some time. Next season we will probably see FedEx and Ellis work behind the plate since Bog Rod’s return is uncertain.

The Dodgers begin a slight uptick in the latter days of August as they sweep the Cardinals in St. Louis and pick up some momentum.  The Dodgers return home for a feel-good game on August 26th. We enjoy the glorious announcement that Vin Scully has decided to come back and grace us with his beautiful voice in 2012. This game also saw a Colorado meltdown, Kemp’s 30th homerun and a surging Loney also homers. Miles pulls a Casey Blake and draws a balk to score the tying run. Matt Kemp joins the 30/30 club as the Dodgers beat Colorado and pick up their 4thwin in a row. The next day was equally exciting as Loney homers again and Matt Kemp blasts a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 11th to win it and give him RBI #100.

Andre Ethier slams critiques in their face. 2011 was also the Dre bashing year. For some unknown reason, some have insisted that Dre wants to be traded or should be traded and his year has been a disappointment. Dre has been known to spew nonsense to the media, but even suggesting that we should trade him is asinine. We find out later that Dre has been playing with a bum knee, and later in the season he bows out to have surgery. After a ridiculous L.A. Times article by T.J. Simers, Dre hits a grand slam against the Padres to lead the Dodgers to victory. They end up sweeping the Padres to end the month. The Dodgers are now 64-70 at this point. They have won 8 of their last 9 games and finish August with a 17-11 record, the first winning month of their season.  Our All-Star outfielder finishes the season with a .292 average, 11 homeruns, 62 RBIs, 30 doubles, 142 hits, a 3-game hitting streak, 8 assists, and plenty of awesome catches. Next year Dre will be back and even stronger after fixing his knee. 

Dead bats came alive.  September rolls around, and at this point we are well beyond the acceptance phase when it comes to any hope of a playoff berth. We now are fully in the midst of playing out this last month and counting the games needed to finish the season with a winning record. The month began with a long 11 game road trip starting with a rainout makeup game in Pittsburgh. We also learned that Rusty Anchor, a.k.a Casey Blake, was going to have season-ending surgery on his neck. The Dodgers also declined his option year for 2012, so Casey Blake’s days as a Dodger and even possibly his baseball career could be over. Blaker finished the season with a .252 average in 63 games, with just 4 homeruns and 26 RBIs. Dana Eveland, called up from AAA helps the Dodgers win the game in Pittsburgh before the Dodgers head down to Atlanta. Loney’s bases clearing three run double helps overcome yet another shaky Billingsley start in the 1st game of the series. The Dodgers extend their winning streak to 6 games by winning game two vs. the Braves in 10 innings. Then they drop the ball in game 3 when Mattingly brings in Hawksworth who proceeds to blow the game in the 9th inning. Hawskworth had a very crappy second half. You can read more about Hawksworth’s inadequacy in Scott’s analysis of him here

After a rainy series in Washington, the Dodgers head to San Francisco for the last time in 2011. Clayton Kershaw’s magnificence is highlighted as he beats Tim Lincecum for the 4th time in the season and picks up his 18th win on September 9th. The next night Dana Eveland, who pitches well on the road, shuts out the Giants in game 2 getting the Dodgers back to that elusive .500 mark which we hadn’t seen in months. With the loss, the Giants are assured a spot on the couch this postseason. The only time we will see Blackbeard during October is in his annoying Taco Bell commercial.

The Dodgers then returned to Dodger Stadium for their final home stand of the year. 2-run ball was the norm for the Dodgers this season. Other than Kemp and second-half Loney, their offense was lackluster. Then there were the couple of games like the blowout on September 18 vs. the Pirates that totally goes against the reality of the Dodgers non-existent offense. The Dodgers scored 15 runs on 23 hits that day including a Bison blast and a Sandblast.  On September 21st Kershaw became the first Dodger since Ramon Martinez in 1990 to win 20 games. Kersh would finish the season with an impressive 21 wins in total. It was quite fitting that Kersh won his 20th vs. Lincecum and once again proved his utter dominance. In the final home game of the year, the Dodgers beat their hated rivals 8-2 as Hiroki Kuroda quite possibly took the mound for his final start at Dodger Stadium. In the 8th inning against Zito, Bison crushes his 36th homerun, giving the fans an extra goodbye 2011 treat.

On Sunday, September 25th Clayton Kershaw wins his 21st game and the Dodgers pick up win #80 against San Diego during the final road trip of the season. In the finale series we get one last bullpen meltdown for old times sake. As a Dodger fan we have grown accustomed to bullpen meltdowns ever since the second half of 2010 after Jonathan Broxton’s arm was blown out at the hands of former manager Joe Torre. Since then these oft bottom of the 9th 2-out blown games have become predictable in nature. Mattingly has yet to fully understand the conditions, which create these perfect storms, but us, the fans, are experts in seeing them come from a mile away. As we have said before no lead is enough for the bullpen. Now admittedly the bullpen was very effective in the second half with Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen leading the way, yet you can never let your guard down…there just might be….a meltdown. September 27th, the second to last game of the season, was just that. A 6-1 lead vs. the D-Backs was gone in a blink of an eye with a little help from Guerrier, Hawksworth and Guerra. Tattooed buffoon Ryan Roberts hits a game-winning grand slam off Guerra in the 10th inning thanks to Donnie’s poor bullpen management. We were all super angered at this game. Yes, it’s meaningless in the scheme of the season, but every game counts and this game should have been a W and not a L. The finale game of 2011 was indeed a win, complete with a solid Lilly start and Matt Kemp’s 39th homerun. For some reason Mattingly brings in Tronsucko to serve up many runs in relief, but luckily Jansen comes in to close out the game and the season for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers finish the season 82-79. In August they had a 17-11 record. Undoubtedly the second half was much much better than the disaster we call the first half. Miraculously we end up with a winning record and in 3rd place in the NL West.

Highlights of this season of course include MVP candidate Matt Kemp’s monster year. He played all 161 games, had 115 runs, 195 hits, 39 homeruns, 126 RBIs, 40 stolen bases, and a .324 average. He truly had a historic year. I must say I do not think I have seen a Dodger have such an amazing year since the likes of Mike Piazza back in the day.

Then there was our Cy Young  candidate Clayton Kershaw who dazzled us with his league leading 21-5 record,  2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, 2 shutouts, 5 complete games in 233.1 innings pitched.

Other bright spots included the fireballer Kenley Jansen’s strong year out of the pen. He battled some heart troubles late in the year, but he has the right stuff to be our future closer.  He whiffed 96 batters in only 53.2 innings. Javy Guerra was another pleasant surprise after being called up when Broxton failed. He had 21 saves for the Dodgers this season, and will definitely be important in the bullpen next year.

Then there was some relievers who struggled out of the pen. Matt Guerrier had a ho-hum season although he was signed for big bucks before joining the Dodgers. Guerrier and Hawksworth both had similar mediocre ERAs at 4.07 & 4.08. They both contributed to quite a few meltdowns. Hong-Chih Kuo had a very tough season as he battled the yips and anxiety. He appeared in 40 games pitching 27 innings and ended up with a very uncharacteristic 9.00 ERA. He also walked 23 batters while striking out 36. There was some glimpses of the old Kuo we enjoyed last season, but his return to the Dodgers or baseball is uncertain. He said if he doesn’t pitch next year he wants to open a restaurant in his native Taiwan.

Mike MacDougal finished up with a low 2.05 ERA, and he appeared in 69 games. He had some ups and downs, but his fastball makes him a possible option next year to return.

The other bit players like Scott Elbert and Josh Lindblom have potential as well.

Ted Lilly had a strong second half, and even stopped serving up the homeruns. 12-14 was his record with a 3.97 ERA in 192.2 innings pitched. The crafty lefty cannot hold runners on to save his life, and his fastballs are anything but, yet he is pretty dependable and we are stuck with him for a while.

Chad Billingsley had an awful second half, and we are left to wonder whether he can ever pull two good halves together again. He ended with an 11-11 record, pitching 188 innings, whiffing 152 with a 4.21 ERA.

Our catching was pretty atrocious this year. Big Rod hit 16 homers but then there was his awful .230 average. Dioner Navarro doesn’t need any more words wasted on him. A.J. Ellis didn’t get a chance, and FedEx is too new to judge. Sigh.

Offense was at a premium this year, and if your name wasn’t Matt Kemp you pretty much weren’t hitting. James Loney came out of nowhere to finish with a .288 average with 12 homeruns and 65 RBIs. That may not sound very impressive, but if you saw the James Loney of the first half you know how incredible his turnaround was. We went from writing him off as a for sure non-tender this offseason to actually welcoming his return to first base next year.

Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles may be short in stature, but they are hugely valuable in their ability to fill-in when needed and we sure needed them. I haven’t even discussed the useless Uribe, and you know what he’s really not even worth mentioning since he was utterly and completely horrid this year. He played in 77 games and barely hit over the Mendoza Line at .204. He had only 4 homeruns and 28 RBIs. Where Uribe fell short, Aaron Miles stepped up. He started off slow in the start of the season, but he ended up with a respectable .275 average in 136 games. He had 125 hits and 45 RBIs. Pretty good from a guy who we really didn’t expect much out of. Jamey Carroll also picked up the slack from an injured Furcal. Carroll hit .290 in 146 games with 131 hits.

 Dee Gordon dazzled at shortstop after being called up, and he most likely will be making acrobatic plays and sprinting like a cheetah for years to come. When we first saw him, we asked who is this skinny guy? Now he’s made a name for himself in the short time he’s been in the league. In 54 games he hit an impressive .304 with 24 stolen bases. He did have 10 errors, and we hope he can settle down a bit next season. His speed really puts pressure on pitchers, and is truly exciting to watch.

Left field was an interesting potpourri of randomness this season. Jerry Sands also had a couple of stints on the big team this year, and he finally broke out in the last part to get us excited to see what he can do in the future. Tony Gwynn Jr. made some incredible game-saving catches, and he will be a great asset to the team next season if he is to be resigned.

2011 has been emotionally draining indeed. We never stopped rooting for our boys in blue even in the darkest moments. Don Mattingly still has a lot to learn, but the second-half turnaround gives us hope that he can transcend the Torre tradition and carve out his own path with the Dodgers. We will say goodbye to some players this offseason, and we will welcome new ones as well. With some fine tuning, continued offense production from Loney, Kemp, Sands, Rivera, and Dre, and the dominance of Clayton Kershaw we may be able to contend next season Dodger fans. Thank you for reading and remember every season can be the  Year of the Bison. Go BlueJ

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