It wasn’t the season the Los Angeles Dodgers were hoping for in the final year under manager Joe Torre. The Dodgers didn’t exactly play badly at 80-82, but finished fourth in the NL West. Torre’s replacement is Don Mattingly, who will try and bring life to an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006.

The offense will have to be better if the Dodgers are going to contend for the division this year. The only problem is L.A. just didn’t do a whole lot to better their lineup. Here is a closer look at the Dodgers’ starting lineup and starting rotation for the 2011 season, plus our MLB predictions on where they will finish the year in the NL West.

Starting Lineup

For the Dodgers to bring home the division this season, they need an even bigger season out of Andre Either and Matt Kemp. It’s not as though the two were bad last season, but with the supporting cast they have around them, it’s up to them to carry the load.

Kemp delivered 28 home runs last year, but his RBI, OBP, and average all dropped. Either opened the season on fire, but faded down the stretch and must show he can produce over a full season.

What could really get this offense going is a healthy Rafael Furcal, who played less than 100 games last season. On the field, Furcal is one of the top leadoff hitters in the game.

Los Angeles also brought in second baseman Juan Uribe—who set career-highs with 24 home runs and 85 RBI with the Giants last season—but he is getting up their in age, and it’s more likely he declines rather than improves. 

The rest of the lineup draws some concern.

James Loney hasn’t been the hitter the Dodgers had hoped for at first base. If his numbers continue to get worse, you have to wonder how much longer the Dodgers will keep him in the lineup. Third baseman Casey Blake turned 37 last August, and there is no doubt his best days are behind him. Catcher Rod Barajas was added after L.A. decided to not resign Russell Martin. Barajas is coming off a year where he hit 17 home runs, but is another guy on the wrong side of 35. Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons are expected to split duties in left field, and if they get anything out of these two, it will really help this offense. 

Starting Rotation

The reason the Dodgers were able to even compete in the West last season was the amazing work they got from their starting rotation.

Clayton Kershaw solidified his spot at the top of the rotation after another great run in 2010. Kershaw went just 13-10, but finished with an ERA of 2.91, which shows how little the offense was providing.

Chad Billingsley also didn’t get a lot of run support, as he went 12-11 with a 3.57 ERA.

Los Angeles decided to bring back Ted Lilly, whom they acquired in a midseason trade with the Cubs. Lilly went 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA with the Dodgers, and should be a solid No. 3 starter.

The last two spots in the rotation figure to be filled by Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland. Kuroda went just 11-13 last season, but had a 3.39 ERA and 1.161 WHIP. Garland returns to the Dodgers after a season with the Padres, where he went 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA.

Not very often will you find a staff that has five starters who all had an ERA under 4.00 the previous year, and not finish above .500. But unless the offense gets things going, the Dodgers could fit that bill.

2011 Projections: 4th Place NL West

While the Dodgers might not have the star power in their starting rotation, there is no question they have the arms to make a run in the West. The problem is they just don’t have the offense to back it up. Unless a lot of guys have a breakout season in 2011, we don’t see Los Angeles making much progress in the division standings. The Dodgers’ MLB odds to win the NL West this season are currently listed at +225.

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