Upon reaching the unofficial halfway point of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers sit at a season-best eleven games above .500. Since June 1, the Dodgers have put up a 23-14 record. That surge has propelled them into the wildcard lead, but they are still six and a half games back in their division. As they continue to get pitchers and position players back from the disabled list in the second half, they will look to cut into that deficit and make a run for October.
Dodgers 2016 Midseason Report
The biggest question mark signing of the off-season for the Dodgers was bringing over Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda. Though a proven pitcher in Japan for the past eight seasons, it was anybody’s guess how the 28-year-old would transition into MLB. How would he fare pitching every fifth day as opposed to once a week? Would the different size of the baseball be difficult for him to overcome?
Maeda answered all of those questions and more in his debut on April 6, 2016 on the road against the San Diego Padres. He posted six shutout innings, striking out four without walking a batter. He topped that performance off with a home run in his second at bat.
He went 3-1 in his first month with a 1.41 ERA, and entered the All-Star break with a record of 8-6 and a 2.95 ERA over eighteen starts. He has proven himself to be a viable number two starter in the rotation.
It’s not an easy task to be dumped by a team that owes you $35 million, but Carl Crawford found way.
In fifty-six games this season, Crawford managed to record only fifteen hits. He hit .185 with a .464 OPS. He did not record a stolen single base – a tough pill to swallow for a player known for his speed who consistently led the league in that category.
The Dodgers did what they had to do by cutting Crawford in early June. While they will still be on the hook for the $35 million they owe him, they no longer have to reserve a roster spot for him.
Midseason Team MVP
The obvious answer here is Clayton Kershaw. What he has done to begin the season is nothing short of historic. He is currently on the disabled list with a back injury, but the team expects him to return shortly after the break.
The Dodgers are 14-2 when Kershaw is on the mound. When he’s not, they are 37-38.
He leads the league with a 1.79 ERA, a .73 WHIP, and boasts a strikeout to walk ratio greater than sixteen to one (a pace that would shatter the current record). In the month of May, he had more complete game shutouts (3) than he did walks (2). He averages over seven and a half innings per start, essentially giving the bullpen an off-day every fifth day. Every time he takes the mound, stadium-goers are in for a treat.
What to Watch for in the Second Half
There are a number of players to keep an eye on during the second half of the season. Will All-Star Corey Seager become the first Dodger rookie to win the Rookie of the Year since 1996? How will Hyun-Jin Ryu perform coming off shoulder surgery? Can Andre Ethier help the team make a push for the playoffs when he returns from the disabled list?
But the biggest player to focus on has to be catcher Yasmani Grandal. The Dodgers offensive production from their catchers has been anemic in recent years, and the first few months of this season proved to be no different. However, in the final eight games leading into the break, Grandal appeared to have found his swing and posted this ridiculous stat line: .440 average, five home runs, eight RBI, and a 1.573 OPS. Granted, it is a small sample size, but if he can continue to improve from off-season shoulder surgery, it would be a huge gain for the team
As the dog days of summer approach, the Dodgers look to continue their stride into October.