Dodgers

Dodgers midseason grades: Peaking at right time could mean danger for opponents in 2nd half

The Los Angeles Dodgers have overcome as much as any team in the division in terms of injuries, yet they sit atop the National League West through 80 games with a two-and-a-half game lead over the San Francisco Giants. With the Arizona Diamondbacks seven games out, it appears to be a two-horse race in a division that looked to be more competitive at the beginning of the season.

But the Dodgers were always the favorite, and they’ve remained in this enviable position throughout the first three months of the season. It’s hard to pin Los Angeles with any true weakness because they do everything fairly well. Let’s take a look at how the Blue Crew has fared as the All-Star break approaches. 

Starting pitching

Any time a team can boast Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top of a rotation every few days, it’s going to make that squad  elite when it comes to starting pitching. But Brett Anderson and Mike Bollinger are each holding their own with career years and anchoring the rotation with a 9-6 record between them. 

With production like that from the back end, it’s no wonder why the Dodgers rank third and second overall in the National League in ERA and WHIP with marks of 3.25 and 1.19. They’ve been lights out, and because of it, the Dodgers have a chance to win no matter who takes the ball. 

Grade: A+

Offense

Los Angeles has plenty of firepower, and it shows in their record and numbers at the plate. They’ve crushed 102 homers — the most through July 1 by 12. That ranks them third in the MLB behind the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. With such an ability to hit the long ball, those close games become more winnable, especially late. Combined with a respectable .255/.332/.433 line as a team, there’s no question that they are making those plate appearances count. 

Joc Pederson has made any Dodgers fans who didn’t like seeing Matt Kemp go to the division-rival San Diego Padres forget that they’re missing the former MVP. With last year’s crowded outfield sorted out, it appears the Dodgers made the right call making Kemp the odd man out. 

What’s most encouraging for Los Angeles, however, is that Yasiel Puig is back in the lineup after missing a long stretch with injuries. But there’s a report of clubhouse discord among teammates when it comes to the Cuban star, despite manager Don Mattingly‘s profession otherwise. 

The only blemish with the offense is off the field. The Dodgers’ bats are making the grade through the midpoint. 

Grade: A

Defense

The Dodgers rank fist in the majors in fielding percentage and have the fewest errors among all 30 teams. There’s no question their defense is a large part of the reason they’ve been successful. When combined with the starting pitching, it’s tough for any team to get out to a big lead against Los Angeles. 

They are fourth in the NL in runners caught stealing. They are doing everything right when it comes to backing up their pitching staff. 

Grade: A+

Relief pitching

The bullpen was supposed to be the Dodgers’ lone weakness, instead, it’s been solid. Los Angeles receivers have allowed the second-fewest baserunners per inning in the NL with a 1.19 WHIP. They’ve also given up the fourth-fewest home runs, which has been a major factor in maintaining leads. 

If there’s one area for development here, it’s in the closer role. Kenley Jansen has missed time due to various injuries, and collectively, Los Angeles has converted just 20 of 32 save opportunities. That could come back to haunt them and prove troubling in the postseason. 

However, it’s safe to say the bullpen overall has been a pleasant surprise considering the challenges it had last season.

Grade: B

Overall

The Dodgers are seemingly headed for the postseason, and they have all the momentum on their side. Without a definitive weakness, Mattingly’s group looks like it will run away with the NL West. The Padres appear to be sellers, while the Giants lack consistency. Everyone else is too far behind to even consider contending with Los Angeles.

Though there’s been some adversity, especially in the injury front, the Dodgers have weathered the storm and continue to string together wins in bunches. That kind of resiliency is the mark of a good ball club — one that has a shot to win a World Series.

This team was assembled with that in mind, and it appears they are trending toward making those aspirations a reality.  

Grade: A

Dodgers fans outside the Los Angeles area shouldn’t let location stop them from seeing a game at Dodger Stadium. Hipmunk.com has cheap flights from Los Angeles, along with hotels in LA starting from $51. Hipmunk also has three other options starting from less than $100 per night.

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His credits include Yahoo Sports and Bleacher Report, among others.
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