We’re half way through the 2018 season, and that means its report card time!
The first half of the year has been an up and down ride for the Dodgers. And when I say “ride,” I mean one of those rides that are really bad at the beginning, and then turn out to be pretty good. They had an unexpected slow start, but their recent turnaround has them sitting atop the N.L West. As the Dodgers go into the All-Star break, they sit at 53-43, good for first place and half a game ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Below, we break down each area of the team, and assign grades for the first half of the year.
Overall, the Dodgers offense has been fairly solid. Entering play Sunday, the Dodgers were 3rd in the league in OPS, 2nd in wRC+, 11th in Avg, and 4th in OBP. At times, it seems like the entire lineup will go into a funk for a few games, but they have also hit hot streaks as well.
The biggest takeaway from the offensive production so far this year, is where it’s coming from. It hasn’t exactly been the usual suspects who you’d might expect entering the season. Corey Seager was lost for the year due to injury. Justin Turner was out for the first six weeks of the season, and hasn’t put up typical Justin Turner-type numbers since coming back. Cody Bellinger still has his power stroke, but overall, hasn’t had the same production from 2017. Chris Taylor has also been a shell of his 2017 self.
Instead the Dodgers offense has been led by the likes of Matt Kemp, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson. That feels odd to even type, let alone say aloud, but it’s true. Those three guys lead the Dodgers in both wRC+ and OPS.
Going forward, some of the Dodgers may come back to earth, but on the flip side, some of the players who under-achieved in the first half could also bounce back (hi Logon Forsythe!) A Manny Machado type acquisition would certainly boost the Dodgers current offence, but the Dodgers current offense seems more than capable.
Starting Pitching: ‘A-‘
The Dodgers starting pitching has been a strength again this year. Entering Sunday, they were 1st in the league in ERA, WHIP, FIP, K/9, and K/BB. They’re 4th in BAA.
Much like their offense, the Dodgers starting pitching production came from unlikely sources as well. For the third year in a row, the Dodgers had to make do without the services of Clayton Kershaw for a good portion of the year. Rich Hill spent significant time on the DL. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been out for most of the first half. Kenta Maeda was also out for a little while although he’s been solid when healthy this year.
The starting staff has been carried by guys like rookie Walker Buehler, and Ross Stripling, who started the year in the bullpen, but has been nothing short of magnificent since joining the rotation, earning an All-Star selection.
Not only has the starting staff been very good, but the Dodgers already deep rotation could also be getting some additional reinforcements after the break. Ryu is due to return sometime soon, and Julio Urias is making progress in his rehab after missing almost a year with a shoulder injury.
The one area where the Dodgers haven’t quite clicked on all cylinders for any length of time has been their bullpen. Their 7th in the league in ERA, 8th in WHIP, 10th in FIP, 5th in K/9, 6th in K/BB, and 8th in BAA. The relief core has had its share of ups and downs during the first half of the season, although lately, they’ve been much better. In July, the Dodgers bullpen is 3rd in ERA, and 4th in FIP (1st in xFIP.)
After a sluggish start, Kenley Jansen has been his typical dominant self for most of the year. The bridge to get to Jansen hasn’t been very sturdy, however. They’ve tried all year to find an in-house replacement to Brandon Morrow, but have yet to do so.
Guys like Daniel Hudson and Scott Alexander, who struggled early in the year, have turned things around lately, and pitched well. Whether they can keep it up or not remains to be seen. New acquired Dylan Floro has looked good in a very short viewing sample so far. Tony Cingrani could return at some point in the second half, which could provide a boost.
If there were one area to upgrade for the Dodgers, the bullpen certainly stands out as the most likely candidate. Although they could elect to stand pat, some sort of acquisition seems probable.
Coaching / Front Office: ‘B’
Grading coaching and management is mostly a subjective endeavor. But as the team goes, so goes the manager’s approval, and when it’s all said and done, the Dodgers are a first place team. Dave Roberts has steered the team to where they are, and didn’t panic after the team’s slow start. Like all managers, some decisions could always be questioned, but overall, Roberts had done a fine job with the club.
The front office hasn’t pulled the trigger on any major deals in the first half just yet, but the moves they did make (i.e Dylan Floro) seem to have worked out well thus far. The decision to stick with Max Muncy has also paid great dividends.
Overall Grade: ‘B+’
Although their overall record might not stand out as much as years past, the Dodgers first half has been pretty remarkable. They were able to overcome their sluggish start, after falling 10 games under .500 in mid-May, to lead the division going into the All-Star break. They’ve dealt with significant injuries to key players like Seager, Tuner, and Kershaw. That’s a pretty big accomplishment in itself.
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