When your tenure in academia is spent with your own father as your principal, you acquire certain skills that prove useful at any given moment. Like, for instance, the ability to explain why some grades are the way they are. (As well as the skill to be invited to parties after convincing everyone you aren’t an undercover student looking to bust kids on the weekends.)

Using one or more of these skills, I’ve prepared a mid-season report card to summarize the Dodgers’ performance at this point of the year. Let’s see how well the Dodgers have done in different aspects of the game and see where they need to improve before going into the pennant race.

ICYMI: Starting Rotation Starting to Take Shape

BULLPEN: A+

That’s right. I am giving the Dodgers’ bullpen a superior grade because they have simply been superior when considering all expectations. For the last three or four seasons, Dodgers fans have seen their bullpen give away games in the late innings after the L.A. starters did an excellent job putting the team in a position to win. Every writer in the baseball zeitgeist knew that the Dodgers relief staff would be their undoing.

As of this very moment, however, the Dodgers have the single best bullpen in the league. That’s right! The Dodgers pen owns the league’s lowest ERA in almost 300 IP so far. The Dodgers boast a 2.83 ERA, which is even better than the 2015 World Champions Kansas City Royals bullpens’ ERA of 2.92. The Dodgers also have the lowest opponent batting average of .195, which makes them the only MLB team to keep their opponents batting below the Mendoza Line.

I also give the Dodgers bullpen an A+ due to their ability to answer the bell in recent weeks. With Kershaw sidelined with lower back pain, the rest of the Dodgers’ starting rotation have not done well enough to get their team into late innings with a chance to win. This has forced Manager Dave Roberts and Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt to ride the bullpen like Zorro in effort to earn the win on most nights. Instead of having the bullpen stumble as they have done so many times before, in 2016, they have flourished.

One of the standout arms has to be Adam Liberatore. He now currently holds a Dodger record of 20-something scoreless appearances and has only surrendered two runs all year. With a microscopic ERA of 0.61, he has really stepped up and is serving as one of the best 8th-inning relief men in the league.

Joe Blanton has also proved to be a vital part of the Dodgers’ late-inning plans. In his 47.1 IP, he has kept his WHIP to a very petite 0.736, second only to Closer Kenley Jansen.

STARTING PITCHING: B

I was originally going to give the starting staff at ‘B-‘ until I looked at their actual numbers on the year. When Kershaw went down with back problems, it was difficult to imagine how the rest of the staff would do without him. Props to the Dodger front office for responding so quickly by acquiring hard-throwing righty Bud Norris from the cellar-dwelling Atlanta Braves. The simple fact, however, is that the Dodgers staters sans Kershaw have difficulty getting past four and five innings in their starts and puts an incredible amount of stress on the bullpen. (And coaching staff.) That being said, they are 5th in the MLB with an ERA of 3.77 and 3rd in opponent batting average with an average of .234. The numbers are alright, they just need to find a way to get deeper into the games… and maybe buy Kershaw some dinner every now and then.

ICYMI: Kenta Maeda Quietly Undervalued

OFFENSE: B

With every player seemingly okay with playing where they are asked to play, this level of uncertainty has not affected their performance at the plate for the most part. The Dodgers have a pretty young core and they have risen to the occasion.

Trayce Thompson was acquired during the offseason and has already made a case for himself as one of the premiere rookie ballplayers in the league. The brother of Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson has smashed 13 homers and chased in 32 RBIs. His batting average has dipped in recent weeks, falling to .225 on the year, but remains one of the Dodgers best options off the bench.

In his sophomore season, Joc Pederson has posted similar numbers to last year. He has matched Thompson’s 13 home runs, but his wild, untamed swing has only been good for a .236 average at the dish.

Easily the most exciting player in the Dodgers’ lineup is rookie shortstop Corey Seager whose first half has earned him a place on the N.L. All-Star roster and the 8th seed in the 2016 Home Run Derby. Corey has tore up the league, batting .297 and smashing 17 home runs as he appears to be the runaway favorite for National League Rookie of the Year.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Dodgers lineup though. One obvious absence is the power from the big first basemen Adrian Gonzalez. While he has pulled his average from as low as .260 to it’s current status of .291, he has only been able to muster seven homers so far on the campaign. With everyone else pitching in, I believe the shortcomings of Gonzalez have done enough to show that this lineup will always have trouble functioning when his bat is absent.

DEFENSE: B+

Well, the Dodgers have no problem flashing the leather out there on the field. Their team fielding percentage of .988 is good enough to make them the second-best defensive team in the N.L. Their effort on the diamond is highlighted by some of the impressive plays being made by outfielder Yasiel Puig.

The polarizing Puig is still at the center of some trade talks, per Ken Rosenthal, his glove has done a lot to make up for his shortcomings at the plate. He leads the Dodger outfielders with six assists and has made one diving play after another. When considering his glove, I would go as far to say that his struggles at the plate are a bit overstated. He still has 7 home runs while batting .256. The offensive numbers aren’t anything to brag about, but Puig as an all-around player is something to be valued at the deadline, should he be traded or not.

MANAGER: B+

Let’s face it. Going into this season, the Dodgers’ managerial vacancy was tempting to only a few candidates in the league. It required the diplomatic skills to handle some pretty big personalities in the locker room and the thick skin to handle the amount of scrutiny that comes with managing in a giant market like L.A. Dave Roberts has done pretty well, in my opinion. I think his ability to speak towards his guys as a manager AND as a former player is, above all else, his best trait. When things began spiraling out of control during a series in San Francisco in which the Dodgers lost two very close games, he gathered his troops and the Dodgers (players and coaches alike) all banded together for a self-examination. What followed was a return home and a sweep of a buff Washington Nationals lineup. Some of his decisions late in games have been criticized, but I think Roberts is still an improvement in the managerial department. I say he has done very well.

OVERALL: B+

I would encourage fans to not look at the standings for a while because the Dodgers are playing excellent baseball. 11 games over .500 is an awesome place for most teams to be and would put them atop most divisions in baseball. The Giants are simply playing baseball on a whole other level. My mind races for the last time I’ve ever seen a Dodgers team play this well and still end up between 6 and 7 games out of first place. Although, the Dodgers have pretty good traction when it comes to the wild card race. While the thought of a $200M wild card team may leave some Dodger fans with a horrible taste in their mouth, I think it’s worth considering that the Giants haven’t won the division in years. The entire league knows what a simple wild card spot has earned the Giants “every even year.”

Latest on DodgersNationTV: Corey Seager Shines in HR Derby Despite 16-15 Loss

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About The Author

JD is a lifelong California native and currently writes for a subsidiary newspaper under the umbrella of The Madera Tribune. A passionate sports fan, JD loves the Dodgers along with the L.A. Kings, Lakers and Green Bay Packers.

9 Responses

  1. DodgerBlue88

    Really? As and Bs across the board huh? Looks like some homer grading to me. Offense and coaching are no where near the grades you gave them… unless you’re simply grading the last few weeks and not the entire first half of the season.

    Reply
  2. nodrog60

    While I’m totally surprised how well the dodgers have played this year, you are giving them as and bs ? Your outfields are all hitting below 250, you know the starters are struggling and the bullpen will soon find its previous level. Oh and a catcher who could hit 200 would be nice.

    Reply
  3. AlwaysCompete

    I am considered a homer of the highest level, and even I cannot
    come close to supporting your grades.A+
    for bullpen?As good as they have been,
    outside of Jansen, Liberatore, and Blanton, the remaining RP has been rather
    pedestrian.Even Jansen has 3 blown
    saves, including 1 against the Giants which to me was the worst and hardest
    loss all year.The Dodgers would benefit
    by sending Baez to AAA to learn an off-speed pitch, and releasing Hatcher.This is a good to very good pen in total, but
    not A+.
    I have no idea how you can grade the offense at a B.I was always taught that a B was above
    average.The Dodgers team offense does
    not approach average, much less above average.26th in BA, 19th in R, 22nd for OBP,
    and 21st with RISP.Not one
    player has a .300 BA.Seager is closest
    with .297, and ranks #41 in MLB; AGon and Turner lead LAD with 44 RBI but rank
    #75; AGon ranks #34 with a .370; Seager is very respectable as #12 with 105
    hits and #19 in DBLs, but #36 in HR.Puig leads all OF with a .256 BA.And there is no reason to discuss the lack of offensive prowess at the
    Catcher position.What part of the
    offense really supports an above average grade.
    No, this team is where they are because of Kershaw and
    because Doc Roberts is getting pretty good at managing the bullpen.But the roster outside of Kershaw, Maeda, Seager,
    AGon, Jansen, Liberatore, and Blanton, has been poor approaching average.

    Reply
  4. Bleed Blue Forever

    I’ve got some issues with the JD Miller mid-season analysis.  I’m not going to mention specific players because I think we all know who they are in their respective categories.  Don’t get mad at my assessment, all lives matter.  

    Bullpen: B     The Dodgers BP has given away their fair share of games this season, in fact, some would say more than their fair share. Albeit, they have had to work harder than most other bullpens since the starters haven’t been able to consistently get beyond 5+ innings per start.  As of late however, the BP has been doing much better.  The BP has thrown about 300 IP thus far out of a total of about 730 total IP in the first half (which is about 40% of all IP).  That’s a lot of work for any BP, hence, a B grade is fair (Miller rated them A+).

    Starting Pitching: C     Biggest problem is their inability to consistently get beyond 5+ innings per start, resulting in an overworked BP. Obviously there is one exception to this so I won’t even mention his name.  The Front Office is primarily responsible for the problem. Pitching is 90% of the game, and with only one super-dooper starting pitcher, what else can we expect?  (Miller rated them B).

    Offense: C+     Inconsistent.  Inconsistent.  Inconsistent.  They’re hot one day, then they must think they can take a day off.  They just might be the only MLB team that doesn’t have a 300 hitter (don’t quote me on that but it’s pretty darn close).  To their credit however, they have been better as of late.  Too soon to say that their inconsistency is behind them.  (Miller rated them B).

    Defense:  B+     I generally agree with Miller’s assessment of B+.

    Manager:  C+     Miller’s B+ is a bit high.  Rookie manager who makes mistakes or poor decisions.  Evidently has a good player relationship.  Hopefully with more experience things will improve.  At this point I don’t consider him a great “mind” in the managerial department…yet.

    Overall:  B-     Lots of hurdles to overcome yet, even though they are in second place in a weak division.  Miller states that at eleven games over 500 it would put them atop most divisions in MLB.  Are you kidding me?  It won’t put them atop ANY division in baseball, but it will get them into second place.  Right now they’re fighting for a wildcard spot.  (Miller rates them B+, which when you think about it, is only a half step from an A.  I don’t think so…yet).

    Reply
  5. Bleed Blue Forever

    AlwaysCompete I like your assessment.  Please read mine.

    Reply
  6. nodrog60

    Right on bleed blue. You may even be generous. Don’t think jd knows much about baseball.probably repeating what the dodgers tell him. Their mediocre depth will kill them yet. Pray Rue comes back strong because the others won’t help much.

    Reply
  7. AlwaysCompete

    Bleed Blue Forever 

    I agree with your grades and assessments.The one area where I would probably be more
    complimentary would be with Doc Roberts.I do not agree with all of his game decisions, but that is just me
    looking from the outside with not all of the information, and with hindsight.But I think that after a rough start, he has
    grown tremendously with his knowledge and use of the bullpen.While they are not A+, they are better than
    most thought they would be.The Dodgers have
    also had more late inning come from behind wins this year compared to Mattingly’s
    last year’s team.While most acknowledge
    the shortcomings of the roster production, the Dodgers are still 11 games
    better than .500, without a run producing offense and no established #2
    SP.They have #4 record in NL, with a
    number of players coming back from injury.Somebody is doing something right.

    Reply
  8. Bleed Blue Forever

    I agree with everything you say AlwaysCompete. Somebody is doing something right. It’s hard to believe they’re in second place with all their woes this year. I think it has to do with the weakness of their division. Head to head, I don’t believe they can beat the Giants out for the title, but I’ve been wrong before and hope I am again. Roberts seems to have improved but I’m still not sold on his cunningness and shrewdness of the game. He’ll get better. At times this team has me believing in them but then again I have my doubts. Please prove me wrong Dodgers.

    Reply

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