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To Win This Year Dodgers Need an Ace

The Dodgers currently have the best record in major league baseball and by all indications are very close to running away with the NL West, so given that why is their so much skepticism in LA?

First and foremost the Dodgers lack one thing that differentiates all great championship teams and that's an impact number one starter.

Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are both find young arms that certainly have the ability to blossom into number one starters some day, but right now they're not at that level.

Pitching in the post season is a different animal than pitching in the regular season and to this point neither Kershaw nor Billingsley has shown the ability to dominate in October.

If you think you can win a championship with Chad Billingsley as your number one (today), you might be in for a rude awakening. We don't have to look back any farther than last years National League Championship series. Here is Billingsley's line for each game he pitched.

Game 2:

Los Angeles Dodgers
C Billingsley (L, 0-1) 2.1 8 8 7 3 5 0 59-36 27.00
C Park 0.1 1 0 0 0 1 0 9-6 0.00
J Beimel 0.0 0 0 0 2 0 0 12-4 0.00
J McDonald 3.1 2 0 0 1 5 0 60-36 0.00
C Kershaw 1.2 0 0 0 1 1 0 18-11 0.00
C Wade 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3-3 0.00
Totals 8.0 11 8 7 7 12 0 161-96

Game 5:

Los Angeles Dodgers
C Billingsley (L, 0-2) 2.2 4 3 3 4 4 1 66-36 18.00
C Park 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2-2 0.00
G Maddux 2.0 2 2 0 1 3 0 38-24 0.00
J McDonald 2.0 1 0 0 1 2 0 29-18 0.00
J Beimel 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3-2 0.00
C Wade 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 8-6 4.91
H Kuo 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 13-8 3.00
Totals 9.0 8 5 3 6 10 1 159-96

As you can imagine looking at these lines the Dodgers went on to lose both games and eventually lost the series.

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times wrote an interesting article today where he essentially touched upon this concept.

The Dodgers have been properly built for the regular season but remain an unfinished product for the postseason, their bundles of hitting and energy and patience not enough to overcome the one thing that can fashion it all into a ring.

Yeah, an ace.

There is power here, there is speed here, there is brashness and belief and as much bullpen intensity as bullpen ivy.

But there is no ace here. There is no big-nerve, cold-staring starting pitcher here.

There is nobody who will take the mound on a chilly fall night and refuse to leave until morning. There is nobody who will grab the ball in October and refuse to give it up until November.

There is no Cole Hamels, no Josh Beckett, no David Wells.

Furthermore, Plashke goes on to introduce this interesting nugget.

Seven of the last 11 world champions began the World Series with a winning performance of at least seven innings from their aces.

Chad Billingsley can be guaranteed to do that? After melting down in the last championship series? After averaging 6 1/3 innings per start in the more relaxed regular season?

During the last nine seasons, no world champion has had a starting pitching staff that was ranked lower than ninth in the league in innings pitched.

The Dodgers' starters currently rank 14th.

Dodgers' manger Joe Torre is a stickler for veteran starting pitchers and after last years NLCS performance you better believe he's pushing Ned Colletti to go get him one.

"I don't want to sit here and say, 'Yeah, we're nine games in first place. We have all the answers and don't need anything,' because I know better. I know better, said Torre."

Even Dodgers superstar Manny Ramirez admits the reason the Dodgers lost to the Phillies last year was because of starting pitching.

"Like last year we played great, but I think Philadelphia got great starters and that's why they won everything."

Now Torre is no stranger to winning championships and he better than anyone on that Dodger team knows what it takes. Torre knows he doesn't want to see Billingsley go head to head with Hamels in October and better yet he doesn't want to see Hamels and Halladay go toe to toe with his young starters.

The Dodgers will have an interesting decision to make in the next four days. They've got a very promising young future in Billingsley and Kershaw, but they also face the realistic probability that those two won't be enough to win a championship this year. They've got a 69-year-old manager whose not concerned with winning in 2012 or 2013 and they've got a GM who has to make a decision.

Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are both out there for the taking and nobody questions whether the Dodgers have enough talent to get them. We'll just have to wait and see if the Dodgers believe they have enough to win this year or if they're willing to make a dent in the future to upgrade the present.