With a run differential of +98, the Dodgers still find themselves leading the pack among all National League clubs. However, will inconsistent production end up hurting the team come playoff time in the fall?
Obviously, injuries have hammered the Dodgers from the very beginning of the year. Some segments of the season have been better than others, but the club still hasn’t reached a point when they’ve been at full strength. Nevertheless, even if the team does become completely healthy, will it still struggle to produce from one game to the next or fail to deliver with runners in scoring position when it matters most?
So far this season, the Dodgers have scored in double digits an impressive eight times, including a 16-run outburst against the Brewers in May and two separate 14-run endeavors against the Angels and Cardinals. Thanks to performances like these, the Dodgers find themselves averaging 5.1 runs per game, which is second only to the Astros in all of baseball.
Of course, the runs per game and the run differentials don’t mean much when a club scores 10 or more runs one night then gets shut out the next. For example, the Giants are leading the division by a full three games entering Wednesday, but they are fifth in the majors with 4.97 runs per game. San Francisco’s +95 run differential is second in the NL only to the Dodgers. Coincidentally, the Padres score an average of 4.51 runs per game—which is 13th in the MLB—but they still lead the bigs in ERA, with the Dodgers and Giants not far behind.
Surprisingly, the Giants lead the majors with 109 team home runs, a category the Dodgers have dominated in recent years. Los Angeles has tallied 93 team homers, which right now ranks 10th in the majors. The bottom line is that all these figures lead to a highly competitive division, a product that fans are currently witnessing.
Certainly, the Dodgers have been throttling some of the worst teams in the league lately, which is important. There have been times when Los Angeles struggles against some of the more elite teams in the league, but it’s nothing consistent. Don’t forget that the Dodgers swept the Giants on the road late last month and they have won other significant series against the Padres and Athletics. However, getting swept by the Cubs last month suggests just how vulnerable Los Angeles can be at times.
As we alluded to on Tuesday, the summer trade deadline will dominate the MLB headlines over the coming weeks, and one wonders what type of upgrades the Dodgers might pull off. More importantly, will the Giants and Padres consider upgrades of their own to stay on an even keel with moves the Dodgers might make?
Being three games out of first place at this juncture of the season might feel disappointing to fans, but the Dodgers are certainly within striking distance of yet another division title. As the season winds down, the obvious key to success is simply victories and not runs per game or differentials. At this juncture of the year, it’s surely excusable if a team is shut out on a rare occasion, especially if it is winning series—primarily against division opponents—consistently.
Even though fans have been witnessing what might be a preview of potential playoff matchups right now, just remember the ones that matter most are the head-to-head contests down the stretch, specifically if the division is as tight as it is now.