While the All-Star break typically marks the mid-season point of Major League baseball, for the Los Angeles Dodgers that official point was last night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
After tonight, the #Dodgers will be halfway through the season. Whoa.
— Joe Davis (@Joe_Davis) June 25, 2019
Through 81 games, the Dodgers have a Major League best, 55-26 record (.679). They are 13 games ahead of the nearest competition in the National League West and are currently atop of the MLB Power Rankings. Despite their dominance in the National League, they do still have some room for improvement. As we celebrate the Dodgers success through the 13-mile mark of the marathon season, let’s take a look at the grades they’ve earned from me.
Runs per game: 5.25 (3rd in N.L)
BA: .266 (2nd in N.L)
Home runs: 128 (2nd in N.L)
RBIs: 409 (3rd in N.L)
OPS: .817 (1st in N.L)
wRC+: 114 (1st in N.L)
BB/K: 0.49 (1st in N.L)
The Dodgers offense has continued to be one of the best in the National League. As you can see above, they rank near the top in most major offensive categories. Unfortunately, I still can’t justify giving them an “A” because the ones they lack are pretty crucial.
Bright Spots: The obvious bright spots are Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Max Muncy and Justin Turner mostly because of their consistent performance at the plate. However, lots of credit must go to David Freese, Matt Beaty, Will Smith and Kyle Garlick for their clutch play and solid performances filling in for the injured. This team has great depth and a tremendous ability to not miss a beat when someone goes down. Simply put, the whole team is relentless.
Room for Improvement: As a whole the team leads the National League in leaving runners on base (LOB city) and worse, they leave the second most runners in scoring position. While they are 3rd in runs scored per game, they could be so much better at hitting in the clutch.
Another area they could improve in is stolen bases, they are currently 12th in the league with just 26. That’s 7 below the league average. While I understand this is an analytics based team and to get caught stealing takes away from the “get on base” philosophy, they need to get better at manufacturing runs. Stealing and/or bunting runners into scoring position is a big part of that. To win close games in the playoffs, small ball may be essential. With the lead this team has in the West, it’s a good time to start working on this skill set.
Starting Pitching: ‘A’
RA/G: 3.62 (1st in N.L.)
ERA: 2.71 (1st in N.L)
WHIP: 1.00 (1st in N.L)
FIP: 3.74 (1st in N.L)
IP: 474 (1st in N.L)
BAA: .217 (1st in N.L)
K/BB: 5.04 (1st in N.L)
Dodgers starting pitching has been nothing short of elite this year. They don’t just rank high in most major statistical categories, the LEAD most of those categories in the National League. This starting rotation has been absolutely dominant. The Dodgers’ NL leading 48 quality starts has minimized the amount of damage the poor bullpen can inflict and saved this team a lot of heartache this year. While Rich Hill has recently been sent to the IL with no real timetable for return, the depth provided by Ross Stripling and Julio Urias should allow for this dominance to continue.
Bright Spots: Hyun-Jin Ryu has continued to show the world how good he can be when he’s healthy, something they’ve only seen in small sample sizes the past few years. He currently boasts a 9-1 record and leads all MLB starters with a 1.27 ERA and his .84 WHIP is second only to Justin Verlander. His pinpoint control has minimized baseball runners as he has just 6 walks all season to go with his 90 strikeouts.
It goes without saying that the rest of the starting rotation has been very good as well. Clayton Kershaw has countered his decreased velocity with better pitch selection and painting corners, Walker Buehler is showing everyone that he has what it takes to be the next generational ace and until injury Rich Hill has been Rich Hill, a foul-mouthed, knee-buckling curveball artist.
Room for Improvement: Rich Hill has landed on the IL at least until August. In his absence the Dodgers will use a combination of Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, and spot starters like today’s Tony Gonsolin. Urias has been phenomenal as the Dodgers long reliever and Stripling has been pretty good for a guy that hasn’t worked much in the starter capacity this year, but I think the Dodgers need to explore adding another starter to replace Hill.
I love Rich, but in the words my wife so eloquently uses to describe my own age, “he’s no spring chicken.” I think it must be considered that to due age, recovery may be slow and I’m not sure the Dodgers should bank on a speedy return, let alone able to get his pitch count up and his mid-season command back. It may be a good time to look at rentals, even if that might mean picking up Mr. Madison “You Don’t Watch The Ball, You Run” Bumgarner, after all Kershaw likes him and he’s dominant in the post season.
Losses in relief: 15 (tied with 4 other teams for 2nd most in N.L.)
IS%: 40% (tied for 2nd most in N.L.)
BS: 13 (6th most in N.L.)
ERA: 4.12 (10th in N.L)
WHIP: 1.19 (2nd in N.L)
FIP: 4.28 (10th in N.L)
BAA: .223 (2nd in N.L)
K/BB: 2.85 (2nd in N.L)
LOB%: 67.5% (14th in N.L)
Through 81 games the bullpen is still the glaring weakness of this otherwise stellar team. While their WHIP, BAA, and K/BB might be good indicators of a decent bullpen, the losses in relief, IS%, ERA and BS indicate otherwise. It seems there is no one outside of Kenley Jansen that has the composure in high pressure situations to get the big outs. Joe Kelly was supposed to be that 8th inning guy, but hasn’t been. I for one, still think he’ll find that command, but outside of him and Pedro Baez who has been pretty consistent there isn’t much that impresses me.
Bright Spots: Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez have been the big bright spots so far. Jansen has shown he can get some of that velocity and movement back on the cutter. When he has those, he’s vintage Jansen. When he doesn’t, well lets just say we all hope the lead he’s trying to save is greater than a run or two.
Baez has impressed me this year. He has a 2.80 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and his BAA is just .169. Additionally, his 34.1 innings pitched are the most relief innings pitched behind long relievers Urias and Stripling. Pretty impressive considering he rarely pitches beyond one inning. What’s more impressive is he has the most Holds (15) and although he’s inherited the 3rd most runners (16) he’s only allowed 4 of them to score.
Room for Improvement: Joe Kelly. No need to harp on it, no need to dig up unimpressive stats. He’s got to find that 2018 post-season command the Dodgers signed him for, period.
Bright Spots: The Dodgers are not just the best in the West, but all of the National League. Arguably the best in all of baseball, but that’s tough to judge because we don’t know where they’d stand if they played more inter-league games against teams. What’s astonishing about this team is that they are this good WITH a poor bullpen, WITH injuries, and WITH a lot of rookies.
I still don’t believe this team is firing on all cylinders yet. Corey Seager was just getting going before he was hurt, Hill was getting into mid-season form, and the Dodgers have been without AJ Pollock nearly all season. The position player injuries will sort themselves out, I’m confident in the depth of this team that they can with stand it. The pitching injuries and shortcomings though, are a different story.
Room for Improvement: At minimum the Dodgers need to get a left-handed Pedro Baez. Someone else that can get them out of a tight spot and get the ball to Jansen in the 9th or even Kelly when he finds that command. I really like the notion of a package deal acquiring Bumgarner and reliever Will Smith from the Giants, but it may cost more than this Front Office is willing to cough up. If there ever was a time to put all the chips on the table, I think the time is now. The Dodgers can afford some prospects because of their tremendous depth, most of which is very young, but already at the big league level. This will make them competitive for years to come and buy time to replenish the talent.
The fan vote:
Since today ends the first half of the season, we want to know:
How would you grade the first half of the season?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) June 25, 2019
Overall, Dodgers Nation was very high on the performance of the team in the first half.
I say, go all in, win this World Series and start restocking the prospects in 2020.