Cockcroft: Los Angeles Dodgers preview

Updated: February 26, 2007, 9:45 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com
Speed's the name of the game in Los Angeles this season, as the team that finished first in the game in triples (58) and fifth in stolen bases (128) and added the National League's No. 2 speedster during the winter in center fielder Juan Pierre (58). Now, like those St. Louis Cardinals teams of the mid-1980s, these Dodgers are built around speed and pitching, quite a change from their brief attempt to emulate the Oakland Athletics.

Not that Pierre or shortstop Rafael Furcal, who were both among the top 12 in steals in 2006, aren't of players that fit the "Moneyball" scheme. Each is a .300-capable batsman, a 40-50 steal candidate and a constant headache on the basepaths, players who on their own can set the table for veteran middle-of-the-order hitters Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent and Luis Gonzalez. The problem is that Garciaparra, Kent and former 57-homer hitter Gonzalez, also added during the offseason, aren't getting any younger. Garciaparra, now 33, missed 40 games in 2006, after missing games 178 over the two previous seasons. Kent will be 39 in March and his 115 games, 14 homers and 68 RBI in 2006 were his worst totals since 1996. Gonzalez, who is 39, has seen his OPS declined in each of the past three seasons.


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