The Dodgers started the 2020 season by splitting a four-game series with the San Francisco Giants, which had to be a moral loss considering the expectations of both teams going into the season.
In a much anticipated matchup, they rebounded to take both games against the Houston Astros, while also blessing us all with the GIF of the year from Joe Kelly.
Joe Kelly ? pic.twitter.com/3ABJoD1FiB
— DraftKings (@DraftKings) July 29, 2020
In Arizona, they took three of four from the Diamondbacks, with Clayton Kershaw making an impressive season debut on Sunday.
Below, I recap the Dodgers’ week, highlighting things I liked, things I didn’t, and players whose stock went up or down.
Things I Liked
Corey Seager’s hot start:
After a sub-par 2019 campaign, there were some questions about Corey Seager’s production coming into this season. He didn’t have a bad year by any means, but his .817 OPS and 113 wRC+ were career lows. The Dodgers were hoping for a bounce-back year from their All-Star shortstop, and so far, Seager looks as good as ever. Through the first 10 games this year, Seager is hitting .361/.425/.694. He’s also leading the league in BRLS/PA (22.5%), meaning he’s barreling up the ball and hitting it hard frequently. If Seager keeps up this kind of production, not only will it be a nice bounce back season, but it may be a career best year.
Depth of starting rotation:
The Dodgers pitching depth wasn’t a secret by any means, but it sure was nice to see how valuable it can be. With Clayton Kershaw missing the start of the season with back stiffness, and Alex Wood going of the IL with shoulder problems, the Dodgers utilized their depth, calling on guys like Ross Stripling, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin. All three pitched well and figure to be in the mix throughout the season. Having reserve arms like that to call on is a huge benefit for the Dodgers this year.
With expanded rosters, the Dodgers have been able to throw a bunch of different arms out of the bullpen this year, and so far, so good. Guys like Caleb Ferguson, Brusdar Graterol, and Dennis Santana have all been impressive. The Dodgers bullpen ranks 2nd in baseball in ERA, 3rd in WHIP, 3rd in FIP, and 2nd in BAA. Obviously, the season is very young, and the jury is still out on every team’s bullpen, but it’s still a good sign for the Dodgers.
Clayton Kershaw’s increased velocity:
Kershaw was hitting 93MPH consistently on the gun Sunday, something he hasn’t done is over two years. Can he keep that up over the course of the entire season? Only time will tell, but it’s certainly a promising development.
Things I Didn’t Like
After the incident with the Astros, MLB came down hard on Joe Kelly with an eight-game suspension. In only a 60-game season, that would be equivalent to a 22-game suspension in a regular 162-game season, which is absolutely ridiculous. Not to downplay throwing behind someone at all, but Kelly never even hit a batter, let alone did anything to warrant such a suspension. The fact that he may serve eight games (depending on the appeal) and none of the Astros players will serve a single game for cheating, is pretty absurd.
Fluctuating batting order:
The batting order has fluctuated each game depending on if the Dodgers are facing a lefty or righty, and I’m not a fan. When the Dodgers acquired Mookie Betts this off-season, most figured that they had finally got a legitimate leadoff hitter for the first time in a while. But Dave Roberts has flip-flopped Betts with Max Muncy at the top of the order, along with other changes in the lineup. Obviously, matchups play a big part in how to construct a lineup, but it would be nice to see some stability in the batting order, at least at the top. Personally, I’d roll with Betts, Seager, Turner, Bellinger, and Muncy almost every day, regardless of the matchup.
I understand this is a very unusual year, and some of baseball’s new changes were unavoidable to accommodate this season’s circumstances. With that said, there is really not a single new rule I like, and hope this will be the last we see of them. The new runner on second base rule in extra innings was definitely something different to see, but it didn’t help speed the game up in the Dodgers 13th inning win against the Astros on Wednesday.
- Corey Seager: See above.
- Caleb Ferguson: As mentioned already, the Dodgers bullpen has been very good so far this year, but Ferguson has been especially nasty. Through four games and 3.2 innings this year, Ferguson has yet to allow a run and only surrendered one hit with no walks. His 12.3 K/9 rate is a very good sign, and he’s locating both his fastball and off-speed pitches well.
- A.J Pollock: It’s only been 30 PA so far, but Pollock owns a nice .370/.433/.704 slash line. One had to think Pollock felt a little pressure to perform better this year after a fairly disappointing 2019 season, and so many other options the Dodgers could go to if he struggled. He won’t have a 1.137 OPS all year, but if he can continue to produce offensively, it’ll make the Dodgers offense that much more dangerous.
- Cody Bellinger: The reigning MVP is definitely struggling out of the game this year. Bellinger is only hitting .150/.209/.250 so far, but did hit his first homerun in Sunday’s game. Perhaps that’s a sign of a turnaround. Much of the talk about Bellinger’s struggles has centered around his new swing. Some question whether it was a good idea to tinker with an approached that lead to such great offensive numbers last year, including 47 homeruns. Time will tell.
- Dave Roberts: During last Sunday’s game against the Giants, Roberts had multiple opportunities to pinch hit for better matchups but failed to do so. He left Joc Pederson, Edwin Rios, and Matt Beaty sitting on the bench despite numerous chances to pinch hit against San Francisco’s right-handed relievers, and instead stayed with guys like Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez. Hernandez, with a career .669 OPS vs RHP, grounded out in a key bases loaded spot in the 8th inning to end the Dodgers last threat. In Friday’s game in Arizona, Roberts elected to intentionally walk the winning run to first, only to have the next batter clear the bases with a double, giving the Diamondbacks the lead, and the game. Obviously, no manager is going to make the right decisions all the time, and scrutiny comes with every move they make. Still, Roberts already has a history of questionable in-game management at critical times in past, so each missed decisions will probably be magnified.
The Dodgers will travel to San Diego for a three game series with the Padres starting Monday, and then return home on Friday for three more with the San Francisco Giants.