The Los Angeles Dodgers are off to their best 60-game start since 1974 and have a 42-19 record. They currently stand firmly atop of the National League West division with a 9.5-game lead on the Colorado Rockies.
They have the best record in the National League by 7.5 games, and the second best record in all of baseball. This team is good. So good, they just swept the NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies, had accusations of cheating by the New York Mets last week, and have been able to carry a very poor performing bullpen. While it is easy to acknowledge the star players’ impact on the Dodgers success, much praise must be given to the role players, the quiet contributors.
Let’s face it, if you are on this Dodger’s team, you can’t really be a “quiet contributor” –They’re all “stars.” After all, it’s Los Angeles, it’s Hollywood. So while the role players may be “stars” in their own right, the following 3 players don’t necessarily start every game for one reason or another. In fact, they’ve all started just 40 games or less of the 61, but they’ve all made significant contributions nonetheless.
Starting this 2019 season it was unclear how much playing time Alex Verdugo would get, but injury to centerfielder A.J. Pollock has given Verdugo ample playing time. He has not disappointed. Going into tonight’s game the early Rookie of the Year candidate is slashing .310/.362/.494 with 4 home runs, 28 RBI, and the Dodgers’ 4th best WAR of 2.0.
Despite only having 177 plate appearances he has the 5th most hits on the Dodgers. Furthermore his hitting approach reflects maturity well beyond his 23 years. He has the team’s lowest strikeout percentage, only getting punched out 10.2% of the time, and he also leads the team in sacrifice flies with 4. Defensively, he has only committed 1 error, has a .989 Fielding Percentage, and a .7 dWAR.
Verdugo is a baseball player through and through, combine his skill with his infectious energy and you’ve got an impact player that can change the game any time he’s in it.
The Dodgers veteran replacement for Chase Utley has been David Freese. He is having fun being in Dodger blue and its showing in his offensive numbers. Freese was picked up by the Dodgers via trade late last August. He is currently slashing .294/.423/.576 with 6 homers, 17 RBI, and has the team’s 3rd best OPS of 1.000 in just 104 plate appearances.
Primarily brought on as a clutch veteran hitter to platoon first base with Max Muncy, he has not disappointed. So far in 2019, his “High Leverage” situation slash line is .667/.778/1.417 with 2 of his 6 home runs and 11 of his 17 RBI coming from those situations. His age may be catching up to him, but the Dodgers are putting him in situations to succeed and of course, he’s rising to the occasions.
The righty-killer, Joc Pederson has absolutely lived up to that designation. Currently, Joc is slashing .272/.374/.667 with 18 home runs, 33 RBIs, 1.040 OPS, and 2.1 WAR. With just 190 plate appearances, that’s 2nd best in slugging, home runs, and OPS. It’s also 3rd best in RBI, and WAR.
Ahead of him in those 2nd place categories is Cody Bellinger with 59 more plate appearances. The 3rd place categories also has Max Muncy ahead of him with 49 more plate appearances. Joc Pederson may only be a right-handed pitching specialist, but he is surgical with that bat.
These three players are examples of what makes the Dodgers so good, depth. Yes, the Dodgers may currently lack bullpen depth, but their starting rotation and position player depth is second to none. n fact, its organization wide. The call-ups of Matt Beaty and Will Smith are evidence that even when injuries strike, help is waiting in the wings. This Dodgers team is no doubt special and its this depth, this endless supply of quiet contributors that make them so.