Led By Unlikely Players, the Dodgers Survived and Succeeded in First Half

The first half of the 2018 season is over , and the Dodgers have somehow found themselves in first place in the West. Of course, this is all what we expected from a team that was this close to winning the World Series last year. Yet, this season so far has been anything but what fans thought it might be.

Although we’ve all been watching, I think it’s important to realize what this team has been through. A simple recount of the major injuries the team has endured seems appropriate.

  • Their All- Star third baseman Justin Turner started the year on the DL, thanks to a wrist injury incurred by a hit-by-pitch in a preseason game. Even when he returned to the lineup, JT was still not himself, and is now dealing with left adductor soreness.
  • Their All-Star shortstop, former Rookie of the Year Corey Seager underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the season and maybe part of next season.
  • The ace of the team, Clayton Kershaw was out twice with injuries.
  • In addition to Kershaw, every other starter has seen time on the DL except for Ross Stripling and Alex WoodRich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and Walker Buehler dealt with various injuries and have now returned. Hyun-Jin Ryu is still on the DL dealing with a groin strain.
  • Multiple relievers also spent time on the DL and/or being sent down to work issues out in Oklahoma City. Kenley Jansen started the season off not looking anything like his 2017 self. The Dodgers have moved on from numerous relievers already, either by DFA or trades.

On May 16, the Dodgers were 8-1/2 games behind Arizona and in last place in the NL West. Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger were no where near producing up to their 2017 standards. Critics wrote them off, saying Taylor was a flash in the pan, they couldn’t beat a surging Arizona, and that the season was over.

But there was also this guy called Matt Kemp, he who was a fan favorite turned villain who returned to his old team again. He who wasn’t even supposed to remain with the team, he who was just a part of a salary dump and was going to be shipped off again as soon as an eligible trade partner was found. Kemp ended up putting the team on his back and carrying them went the offense couldn’t quite get it going.

He was helped by this other guy, Max Muncy, who was recalled from Triple-A a few weeks into the season and made sure he wasn’t sent back down. Although Muncy was never called up in 2017, the front office told him they liked what they saw and to stick around with the team. He did, and now he’s heading to the All-Star game as part of the Home Run Derby, 12th in the majors with 22 homers.

Kemp will be starting the All-Star game in the outfield, taking his .310 BA and 15 homers to D.C, with him. Joining him will be Jansen and Stripling, who is having a banner year himself with a 8-2 record and 2.08 ERA. He’s been the one consistent pitcher on the staff through the first half, another thing that no one saw coming.

Slowly and steadily, the Dodgers worked their way from bottom to the top, even though they were the fastest team since the 1950s to go from 10 games under to 10 games over the .500 mark. Some fortuitous things have happened, like the Diamondbacks hitting a slide just as the Dodgers were getting hot. The rest of the teams in the NL West are not powerhouses at the moment. Overall, their schedule wasn’t that tough.

That all changes in the second half, when the Dodgers start out against the Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros—all first or second place teams that have better records than the Dodgers. It will be a test of whether they can hang with the best teams in the league. The club will also no doubt be bolstered by a few acquisitions leading up to the trade deadline. But, until then, we should take a moment to appreciate the fight this team has at the moment—led by the steadying presence of manager Dave Roberts.

Some Dodger fans are quick to jump on both Roberts and the front office crew, saying they haven’t done enough to field a team that can compete again for a World Series. That remains to be seen after the trade deadline and into the playoffs. But, to them, I ask: “What other team would be able to withstand the injuries and pressure of repeating as NL champs and not lose the clubhouse?” Not many, I would answer.

The first half was rough, and the Dodgers survived and succeeded. Reinforcements will be coming, either by trade or players finally being healthy. Staying slow and steady will see this team back to the playoffs, even if led by unlikely leaders. That makes it all the more sweet.

 

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Will the Dodgers’ Regular Season Strength Also Be Their Postseason Weakness?

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After a nearly unprecedented June (preceded only by June of 2017) the Dodgers climbed out of the hole they were in and now find themselves neck-and-neck with the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the National League West. How they were able to do it is a story in and of itself—one that is always worth telling. The story that I am interested in now, however, is how the Dodgers will fare going forward.

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Dodgers Move to First-Place in NL West, Hope to Maintain Momentum vs. Angels

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(Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

And how about that. The team that was given up on early in the season, by many pundits and fans alike, is back in first place.

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Series Preview: Dodgers Host Pirates in Final Leg of Homestand

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(Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

Heading into the final series of their current homestand, the Dodgers are still lingering in second place in the West division, currently sitting 2-1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks. In the first two contests against the Rockies over the weekend, the club’s offense was dormant; however, in the finale, the bats woke up and the Boys in Blue were able to salvage a 6-4 victory.

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A Look at How the Dodgers Have Weathered the First-Half Injury Storm

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A few weeks ago, when the Dodgers looked like they were at rock bottom, I went through and looked at the upcoming schedule, and what the Dodgers would have to do to climb back to .500 and back to the top of the division. An off day today was a good time to take stock of what has transpired over the first two and a half months of the season.

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Dodgers’ Offense Spearheads Weekend Sweep of Rockies

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(MLB.com photo)

Although it took just shy of eight years to accomplish, the Dodgers walked away with a three-game sweep of the Rockies on Sunday afternoon—and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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Dodgers 25-Man Roster: The Current State of the Starting Rotation

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(Mandatory Credit: David Goldman/AP)

When considering all the injuries the original starting rotation of the Dodgers has suffered so far this season, somebody unfamiliar with the team would probably think the club is doomed to defeat, not having a chance to hang around in its respective division race. However, in reality, the complete opposite may be true. In fact, with all the arms that are present in the current rotation mix, Los Angeles may have a better chance of success right now than they’ve had all year.

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Dodgers vs. Padres: Series Preview & A Few Other Notes

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The last time the Dodgers faced the San Diego Padres, things were a little different. Sure, they had a combined no hitter against them. But overall, they lost the series to the last place team and were in the midst of a dismal stretch of play.

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Is it Time to Stop Talking About 2017?

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I, like many, am guilty of this. I won’t stop talking about 2017 because let’s be honest, before Thursday, 2017 was a far prettier thought. The problem with this, however, is that remembering 2017 does next to nothing for the team now. Of course, strategies that worked for the team back then may work again now, so in that case, by all means, think about last year. What I think has made it tough on a lot of people is the losing, and rightly so. In the same week, the Dodgers got swept by the Cincinnati Reds but later swept the Washington Nationals.

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Dodgers Hope to Bring Winning Ways Home Against First-Place Rockies

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Even if it isn’t the turnaround we’ve all been hoping for, even if it’s just a blip, an anomaly, the Dodgers sure gave us one heck of a fun weekend.

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