How the Dodgers Became the Best Team in Baseball at the All-Star Break

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We have reached the All-Star break, and suffice it to say, we can all be very pleased  with the first half of the 2017 season. The Dodgers are sole owners of the best record in baseball, at 61-29, and are more games over .500 than games they’ve actually lost.

So just how did we get here? I remember a lot of people way back in April not being very confident about where the team would be at this point in time. The season started with the now seemingly usual rash of injuries and players on the DL. They finished April 14-12, in third place in a surprisingly difficult division.

In May, things were looking better. Cody Bellinger made sure he was not sent back down to Triple-A by showcasing his electric and powerful bat. Alex Wood had started his now 10-0 winning record. Chris Taylor could do no wrong, even after being moved to the outfield. Still, there were concerns. Namely, with Adrian Gonzalez‘s bat, and Clayton Kershaw‘s new alarming propensity to give up home runs.

June was spent flirting with the lead in the division, until the Dodgers finally took it over for good on the 21st, and then proceeded to steamroll to where they are today, with a 7.5 and 9.5 game lead on Arizona and Colorado, respectively.

The stats that team has amassed in the first half are pretty astounding. The Dodgers have the fourth best winning percentage before the All-Star break in Dodger history since 1933. They have the best run differential ever heading into the All-Star break, at +163. They are on pace to win 110 games. Even if they finish the second half at .500, they will finish with 97 wins. They could have multiple pitchers, in Kershaw and Wood, with 20 wins for the first time since Koufax and Drysdale.

The most interesting tidbit about this team to me is how it truly is a total team effort. In past years, it’s been Kershaw and hoping everyone else can keep up, and produce at the same time. That’s not the case this season. Production has come from many unlikely places. While Taylor has cooled off a bit from his truly impressive play the beginning of the season, he still is a steady force to be reckoned in the lineup. Many initially thought that Bellinger would not be ready, and would be brought up in September to provide a late season spark to the club. But instead, he’s blasting homer after homer, will participate in the Home Run Derby, and has made the All-Star team after just a few months in the majors. Wood, who did not start the season as a member of the Dodgers’ rotation, also has made it to the All-Stars and has been an unbeatable pitcher so far.

Production has also come from all parts of the lineup. Yasiel Puig has been doing his best work down in the eight slot. He’s quietly having one of his best years, and is on pace for 30 home runs. Justin Turner leads the major leagues in batting average and OPS, and it isn’t even close. Austin Barnes has turned into a very capable back up catcher, which is so needed at the most grueling position on the diamond. From Brian Hagan, they have 15 players with a game-winning RBI, and 13 have done it at least three times. That’s truly an incredible stat when you think about it.

The steps that the front office have taken to boost this team prove to be immeasurable day after day. Players are able to be rested when they need it. They can do so secure in the fact that the production levels drop off. They are also making good use of the 10-day DL, when players need a little bit more rest or need to just take time to give an injury time heal instead of trying to push through it as has often happened before.

All in all, it was a first half that was beyond expectations. There is still work to be done, and they are a relief pitcher and possibly another starting pitcher way from having a truly powerhouse team. But even if for some reason this is the completing the Dodgers head into class with, I have a confidence in it like I haven’t had in the previous years. Dave Roberts and the front office have pulled all of the right strings at the right time so far, and this is a team that is clicking and ready to go straight through to the World Series. I can’t wait for the second half.

(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERGIRLINPA)

 

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