Dodgers: A Look Into Their First-Half
The Los Angeles Dodgers enter the All-Star Break dropping three of four games against the San Diego Padres. But that is just a minor blip on what has been an excellent first-half.
You always want to enter a break riding high on momentum, but for these 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers, they couldn’t care less how they arrived there- just as long as they just got there. They are riding a three-game slide after losing a four-game series vs. the San Diego Padres, but it’s a scuffle that dates back to two weeks ago- a stretch that has seen them go 6-7 in 13 games.
But baseball is a 162-game season full of ups and down, and this is what constitutes as a “slump” for LA this season. The Dodgers are still 60-32, 13.5 games up in the division, have the best record in the National League by 5.5 games, and have Major League Baseball’s best mark by two games (although the New York Yankees have four games in hand).
And they’ve done all this while playing the third-toughest schedule and going 30-21 against winning teams (a 95-win pace), so it’s highly unlikely they’re panicking.
Los Angeles probably just needs a few days off to refresh and reset. Besides, a .683 winning percentage isn’t exactly easy to keep up- especially with a comfortable division lead and the break around the corner. But one can argue that the boys in blue were getting a bit too complacent, especially on offense where they were able to muster up just seven runs in four games against San Diego.
Regardless, the Dodgers enter the All-Star Break seventh in runs/game (5.22), second in team ERA (3.37), and eighth in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). They also have the highest WAR among position players and fifth among pitchers, according to FanGraphs. So you can say they’ve been a strong all-around squad. The one blemish on the team has been the bullpen, but even they have been turning it around lately.
To have this type of success, means that there must be some standout players, and Los Angeles just so happens to have some of the best in the game:
Team MVP- Cody Bellinger
The soon-to-be 24-year-year old is having a season for the ages, as he leads his team in virtually every offensive category. His .336/.432/.692 line with 30 home runs has been the biggest reason why the Dodgers’ offense has been as formidable as it’s been.
Those numbers are top-three in the sport, as is Bellinger’s 5.8 fWAR and eight outfield assists. The slugger’s 6.7 bWAR paces the game, while his 19 DRS between the outfield and first base is at the top of the list as well. His 30 homers also break the franchise record for most long balls before the All-Star Game.
Simply put, Bellinger has been one of the NL MVP frontrunners all season long and has a strong claim for being the best baseball player (not named Mike Trout) in the world.
Team Cy Young- Hyun-Jin Ryu
If people were to guess that a Dodgers starting pitcher would be starting the All-Star Game, Clayton Kershaw would come to mind first. But he hasn’t even been the team’s best left-hander, let along starting pitcher in 2019. That honor belongs to one, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has shocked the baseball world with his stellar first-half.
The 32-year-old paces all starting pitchers with a 1.73 ERA, 0.83 walks/nine, 2.4 walk percentage, and 9.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while being second in WHIP, fourth in FIP, and top ten in WAR.
He’s been a revelation for the Dodgers and earned himself his first-ever All-Star appearance, which happens to carry the opportunity of opening the game for the Senior Circuit. But, if you’ve followed the Korean left-hander throughout his career, this success should be surprising but shouldn’t come as big of a shock as it has for the average baseball fan.
Top Rookie- Alex Verdugo
When it comes to churning out talent, it’s hard to get better than the Dodgers. They have an MLB-best 18 Rookie of the Year trophies, and under Andrew Friedman’s stewardship, they continue to find diamonds in the rough year in and year out.
And 2019 has not been so different, as they’ve uncovered further gems. Kyle Garlick and Matt Beaty have not been on the level of Chris Taylor and Max Muncy from years past, but they are overlooked players who have had impressive displays throughout their short tenure. And for the factory that has produced elite rookie after elite rookie, look no further than Alex Verdugo and Will Smith, two of the organization’s brightest young players.
Smith has been impressive at the dish and behind the plate in his two stints, blasting three home runs (two walk-offs) in 26 at-bats and showing off his defensive prowess. But it’s Verdugo who gets the nod here, and not only because of sheer volume, but also his .303/.350/.489 line and ten DRS.
He’s been another left-handed standout with the bat and it’s easy to see why the Dodgers’ front office was reluctant to part with him in a trade. The 23-year-old has solidified himself in the Dodger outfield while cementing his place atop the lineup.
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