If you thought at the beginning of the season that watching the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021 was just going to be a cake walk of a year, you would have been mistaken.
The Best Team Ever, as some baseball pundits proclaimed to start the season, most definitely is not the luckiest team ever. The Dodgers have been riddled with injuries in every facet of their roster, partially leading to a skid where they’ve lost seven of their last 10 games.
The vaulted depth is severely being tested early on in the season. Cody Bellinger was spiked in a fluke accident trying to run to first, and the bone is taking awhile to heal. New SuperUtility Guy Zach McKinstry was sidelined with oblique issues. Corey Knebel, after seemingly returning to All-Star form, was just moved to the 60-day IL after incurring a lat strain. David Price is out four to six weeks with a hamstring injury. And the latest, Dustin May on the 10-day IL with a right arm injury.
That’s a lot for any team to lose so early in the season. A former MVP, key pieces of the bullpen, and their fifth starter who would conceivably be a number two or three in most other starting rotations.
And yet the Dodgers sit at 17-12, percentage points out of first place in the NL West, and second best record in all of baseball. Having beat up on opponents early in the season when most of the team was still healthy helps in that department.
Still, it’s early and all that’s really suffering is the expectations of a bunch of lofty thinkers and click bait writers. Despite the loss of players incurred so far, the Dodgers are still much better prepared to handle it than most teams would be.
One case in point is that the Dodgers have a bottom of the lineup that can carry the team when the top half is injured or in a funk. Yesterday, all 16 RBI came courtesy of the six-through-eight part of the lineup. A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor are healthy and raking, and Matt Beaty has stepped right into the SuperUtility Guy roll and handling it with aplomb. He’s batting .356 on the year, .500 in his last seven games. Pollock is batting .385 in his last seven games with three homers. Guys stepping up when the Dodgers need them the most.
Some help is on the horizon, also. Although his return date is still up in the air, Tony Gonsolin is being stretched out to be the fifth starter and take May’s place in the rotation. Joe Kelly, who just revealed over the weekend that he had a cyst in his throwing arm, as also set to return to the bullpen, possibly within the next week. And while the Dodgers are in the middle of 14 consecutive game stretch, there are three off days in the next eleven calendar days that will help the rotation and the beleaguered bullpen get some rest. There is also the possibility of a rain out in Chicago Monday evening, which could help the relief crew rest after their two back-to-back bullpen games in Milwaukee.
It’s not time to start panicking yet, although watching these recent games has been anything but fun, aside from the two offensive explosions. The Dodgers have plenty of talent to weather these injury storms, and if not getting the best record in baseball ever means having a healthy team come October, that’s what means most in the long run.