Series Preview: Mets vs. Dodgers Interview with Dodgerfan.net

Posted on by Kerel Cooper

In preparation for the New York Mets vs. LA Dodgers three game series this week, I chatted with Chris Volk of Dodgerfan.net and fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance member. Read below as we discuss Matt Kemp, starting pitching and the Dodgers playoff chances in 2010.

Q. Can you tell the readers a little about yourself and Dodgerfan.net?
A. I’m a lifelong Dodger fan who grew up savoring the eloquence of Vin Scully and the Dodger teams of the late-70’s and the 1980’s. I started dodgerfan.net with my brother Alex as a way to discuss the good, the bad and the unthinkable when it comes to Dodger baseball. We think of ourselves as a blog for the everyday Dodger fan, and look for compelling stories that take place between and outside the lines.

Q. The Dodgers have won the NL West the last two seasons. How confident are you in the Dodgers making the playoffs in 2010 and have some of the other teams in the NL West caught up to them?
A. I definitely think it’s going to be a lot tougher for the Dodgers to win the NL West for a third consecutive year – something no team has done in the era since the wild card playoff spots were introduced. The Rockies and Giants are a lot better, and the Padres are playing surprisingly well to start the season. I’m particularly impressed with the Giants pitching, and think they could be a dark horse to compete for the NL West title. The Dodgers also did not make a lot of moves in the offseason to help their cause. I would have liked to see Ned Colletti add some starting pitching, but the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt is unquestionably having an impact on the team’s payroll (even though the club officially denies this).

Q. Is there one area of the team you would like to see the Dodgers improve upon during the season?
A. Definitely pitching. At the beginning of the season I would have said that I would have put a quality starter at the top of the list at the trading deadline, but the inability of the bullpen (I’m speaking of Russ Ortiz, Ramon Ortiz and even George Sherrill) has made the need for consistent relief pitching an even greater priority. The Dodgers have got to find a way to get the ball into the hands of closer Jonathan Broxton on a more consistent basis.

Q. Matt Kemp is off to a great start this season. He’s a young player that has been improving each season. Give me your thoughts on Kemp and the type of player he is.
A. Matt Kemp is a phenomenal young outfielder with all the potential in the world. He’s blessed with power and speed, and could hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases this year. In addition, he’s mature for his age and is a character guy who always answers the tough questions. His defense has slipped since his Gold Glove campaign in 2009, but it’s still a bit too early to tell if this is just a fluke or the beginning of a trend. All that said, and with all due respect to Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and James Loney, Kemp is the best young player on the Dodgers and a perennial All Star in the making.

Q. I think some people thought the Dodgers would have improved upon their starting pitching in the off-season. They didn’t do that. Give me your thoughts on the Dodgers starting rotation.
A. In general, I like the Dodgers starters. The working philosophy within the organization was that the club did not need to sign a #1 starter in the offseason, as both Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw were both #1 starters in the making, and still developing. True, but you can never have a shortage of quality arms. Let’s work through the starters as of today: Chad Billingsley finally had a good start against the Nationals, but has really struggled since the 2009 All Star break. In fact, he hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning since July 5, 2009. That’s troubling to me and I sometimes question his mental toughness and ability to develop into a #1 starter, but he has all the talent and potential in the world to make that happen.

Clayton Kershaw is really special and has the potential to be a truly dominant lefty with that absolutely filthy curve of his. Hiroki Kuroda is a very consistent pitcher with the ability to take the Dodgers deep in games. Prior to signing with the Dodgers, Kuroda pitched for 10 seasons with the Hiroshima Carp, earning the nickname “Mr. Complete Game” for the 74 complete games he threw. The Dodgers would love to see some of that magic here in LA on a more regular basis. Vicente Padilla was fantastic for the Dodgers during the 2009 pennant run and is a capable #4 starter, and the Dodgers were glad to sign him for the 2010 season. He just went on the DL today, however, and Josh Towers is reportedly replacing him while he’s out.

In the fifth spot is Charlie Haeger. A knuckleballer, Haeger really impressed Joe Torre during Spring Training, which is tough to do as knuckleballs historically don’t fly that well in the dry Arizona air. He’s off to a rough start, but Torre seems committed to sticking with the kid for a while longer. Is this starting rotation good enough to compete for a title? If the bullpen pitches like it did last year it is, but that hasn’t been the case so far in the 2010 season.

Special thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Be sure to check out Chris over at Dodgerfan.net.

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