A Look at the Los Angeles Dodgers ‘Adequate’ First Half

Before the 2021 MLB trade deadline is upon us, before the issues with the starting rotation sort themselves out, let’s take a look back at what was the first half of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season.

No doubt the Dodgers are not where they thought they’d be when the year began. Once envied for their pitching depth, the Boys in Blue find themselves with just two of their five starters active on the roster. World Series MVP Corey Seager has been missing from the roster for much of the first half. And more players than not have spent at least some time on the injured list.

The Dodgers find themselves in second place in the NL West, 2.0 games behind the San Francisco Giants, who are maybe the biggest surprise of all. Talking heads and fans alike thought the race for the NL West would be between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. The Giants have found a resurgence of sorts, led by very good starting pitching, and the Padres have also been susceptible to injuries, finding themselves 6.0 games out of first.

Los Angeles is 56-35, 21 games above .500, and have an MLB best +142 run differential. Overall, not bad for a team with just two starting pitchers and who had their core group of players, Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Corey Seager, in the lineup together only three times.

Manager Dave Roberts had this to say about his team’s first half: “I think good, not great. The hitting at times has been going good, and at times not good. So that’s been inconsistent. We need to cleanup the defense. That’s been the most glaring.”

The defense has not been sharp so far this season, indeed. The team has 57 total errors, with Turner and Gavin Lux both having eight. Austin Barnes and Will Smith have 12 between them.

The Dodgers were also 2-25 when trailing after the seventh inning. They also are 8-16 in one run games, lacking that clutch gene the team seemed to have in the past few seasons. Muncy winning the last game of the first half with the team’s first walk-off of the season was a step in the right direction.

There have been a few surprises this season, none more so than the addition of Albert Pujols to the team. The future Hall of Famer was DFA’d by the Los Angeles Angels, and soon after joined the Dodgers. Pujols has become a clutch pinch hitter, as well as the greatest hugger the Dodgers might have ever seen. Tío Albert, as he’s become known in the clubhouse and throughout social media, gives every player a huge hug after they’ve homered. And since being with the Dodgers, he’s slugged eight homers of his own.

The relief pitching crew has seen the resurgence of both Joe Kelly and Kenley Jansen. Now both healthy, they have put in much time and effort to returning to if not their best, very close to their best forms. Jansen has a 1.24 ERA, 21 saves and 41 strikeouts over 36.1 innings pitched. Phil Bickford has been a welcome addition to the bullpen, with a 2.11 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 21.1 innings pitched.

Turner is fifth in the National League in batting with a .305 average. Muncy is seventh in the league in home runs with 19, leads the majors in on base percentage, and is tied for first in walks. Julio Urías is tied for the most wins in the majors with 11. Jansen is third in save opportunities in the majors.

But we all know individual stats don’t matter if the team isn’t going far into the playoffs in October.

“We held serve, and now it’s our service,” said Roberts. “This is where the really good teams start to ascend.”

To do so, the Dodgers will need to figure out their starting rotation issues. Clayton Kershaw needs to return to the rotation healthy, and David Price and Tony Gonsolin will need to continue to work on getting their pitch count increased. The Dodgers will most likely also have to trade for another starter to replace Trevor Bauer, who may not be back with the team this season because of his pending sexual assault case.

They will also need Betts to return to his “serviceable” 2020 form. Betts has called his first half “bad,” but the last few games have seen Mookie hitting the ball better and farther. Seager will need to return fully healthy, and Bellinger will need to get himself right at the plate also. If most of the these things happen, the Dodgers will be unstoppable in the second half.

8 thoughts on “A Look at the Los Angeles Dodgers ‘Adequate’ First Half

  1. I think moving Bellinger down a bunch of slots in the batting order would benefit him and the team. He’s not right at the plate yet.

  2. The Giants have several players having career years at the plate. Can they sustain that the entire year? I doubt it!!
    Bellinger has not been consistent since his MVP year. Why he will not hit against the shift hitting .176 is beyond me is he arrogant or stupid? Either can be eventually fatal to a career.
    Trading from need is never good. I would give Pepiot, Jackson, and eventually Gray the opportunity to fill the slot before I would make a trade. Unless they trade a blue-chip player like Ruiz I do not see them getting anyone that is not a mediocre inning eater. I still find it hard to believe the vaunted Dodger Farm System doesn’t have one pitcher that can fill the #5 slot adequately while the Dodgers find out about Bauer and if Nelson and Kershaw will be back quickly.
    Nunez was pitching well at OKC let him start and see how far he can get instead of allowing him 2-3 innings. These young guys have to be given some rope not yanked when they allow a run.
    Patience. It is only the first half.
    This team is in a better position than anyone could have predicted if you had asked how about they lose May, Seager, Bellinger for at least half the year. Along with Bauer and Kershaw. Lose McKinstry, Graterol, Alexander, etc, for different periods and they are only 2 out? Give them a standing O!

    1. The vaunted farm system hasn’t been vaunted for 2 probably 3 years.we just got carried away. As I recall Bellinger had a pretty mediocre 2nd half even during his MVP year. I said this spring that if he couldn’t get back up to hitting 260/270 centre field could end up a problem along with 2nd base and the bullpen. I was pretty sure he would hit over the mendoza line. To be honest I was also concerned about 1st base.
      On the other hand we have the 2nd best record in baseball with what is pretty much a mediocre outfield and stop gap 2nd baseman. I keep forgetting what I’m complaining about.

  3. FYI Nunez was 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA batters were hitting .193 against him. Dodger 2080 says
    “Nuñez earned the call up with some excellent statistics in 2021. In 30 innings he has struck out 42 batters, walked 15, only allowed 16 hits and the opponents have slashed only .193/.271/.314 (AVG/OBP/SLG). He is ready.”
    I say he, Pepiot, and Jackson are better than most of the mediocre pitchers the Dodgers could pick up. Nunez in the minors has had a K9 of 14.6! Talk about swing and miss…

    1. I disagree my friend. How many times in Dodgers history have rookie pitcher made an impact on a Championship run? I can think of two, Fernando and Steve Howe, both in 81. Other than that it has been veterans who have gotten the job done. Throwing an untested kid into the heat of a pennant race rarely works. Those guys need to be introduced to the game in the spring, Pepiot and Gray have not been stretched out enough to start consistently on a big league team. And dominating hitters in AAA is a far cry from doing it in the bigs. Prospects are suspects until they prove otherwise. Gausman and Desclafani are not exactly aces, But they are pitching like one.

      1. I understand your stance Bear. I still think Nunez if given some innings will pitch well. I also believe Pepiot will do well as he has an excellent change-up for an out pitch. Roberts has not been giving the young guys innings. They have to get experience somehow. I would rather a rookie get some innings than fatigue the bullpen by using 7 guys. You are right it is all about the experience that is why at the halfway mark they should use these guys as a stop gap until they know the status of Kershaw, Nelson, and maybe Bauer. Although Bauer’s situation may drag on.

      2. I do not care about the bullpen guys, we are talking starters here. Now, you could use Pepiot and maybe Gray as openers, but you are not going to use them for more than a few innings. And they have options, so the OKC-LA tram will be busy. But Jackson? No way is he close to being MLB ready. And using those kids in high leverage situations during a stretch run? Nope, not going to happen. They seem to have found a gem in Bickford, Knebel supposedly back in August. Kershaw’s MRI came back revealing nothing more than inflammation. So he should be back soon. Nelson is not a starter anymore, and backs can be iffy. But he also should be back after his 10 day stint, which I think was more of just giving the guy a blow since he has not pitched competitively in 2 years. Bauer in my estimation, will not be back this season, and maybe never,

  4. Nunez is strictly a reliever. And he has been touched up for runs in both of his appearances. But I credit that to some butterfly’s maybe. But his stuff is nasty.

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