Dodgers vs diamondbacks
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New FSM Essential Feature – The 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Mid-Season Report

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2021 Los Angeles Dodgers Mid-Season Report

 

It’s just about the mid-way point in the 2021 MLB season, game 80 to be exact. Surprisingly, the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers sit in second place in the NL West behind the San Francisco Giants.

 

Dodgers vs Cubs
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Before we start to complain about the fact they are in second place, keep in mind that the Dodgers also have the second-best record in all of Major League Baseball (only behind the Giants).

The defending champs have had to deal with a myriad of injuries to key players such as Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, and Corey Seager, not to mention losing Dustin May for the season (Tommy John surgery) and just getting Tony Gonsolin back after his shoulder started to bother him during spring training.

Credit the Dodgers’ overall depth to keep them near the top of the standings. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has had to mix and match lineups all season, not to mention deal with a bullpen that struggled for stretches. The Dodgers‘ defense has been average at best, and the offense has disappeared for long stretches, not helping their elite starting pitching. Yet, after all that, they STILL have the second-best record in MLB.

 

I know Dodgers faithful will have their detractors saying, “they have the highest payroll in baseball, they should be fine, hell they are underachieving since they aren’t running away with the best record in baseball!” To those, I say (in my TQ voice), “Shut the hell up, haters!”

 

Dodgers vs Diamondbacks
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The Dodgers scouting department has done such a great job over the years that they can reload quickly or flip those prospects for major league players that can help now. Credit Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman for building a roster to win now and in the future.

A perfect example of how the Dodgers brain trust works is the addition of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Pujols was wasting away with the Anaheim Angels, playing for nothing other than a (very nice) paycheck. The Angels owner, Arte Moreno, and his hand-chosen skipper, Joe Madden, decided that Pujols isn’t a player that needed to be in the line-up every day. While they may not have been wrong, they also handled it as poorly as possible, essentially disrespecting the Pujols and then releasing him.

Well, the Dodgers needed another bat that could rake against left-handed pitching, and Pujols can still do that. As soon as Pujols cleared the waiver wire, the news broke that he would be signing with the Dodgers, which would piss Moreno off since he has an inferiority complex regarding the Dodgers and their success. It has to make matters worse for Moreno not only to see Pujols thrive in his role but also say this has been the most fun he’s had in years. For the Dodgers on the field, Pujols has been everything they could have hoped for and more. He is feasting off of left-handed pitching, provided some more power off the bench, and imparting his wisdom to his new teammates.

On behalf of Dodgers Nation, thanks, Arte!

 

The Dodgers offense needs to find consistency, which will come when everyone is playing every day and missing games due to injury or illness.

 

Dodgers vs Padres
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Admittedly, Betts, Bellinger, Seager (when he was in the lineup), and others got off to slow starts. Justin Turner got hot early but cooled off, which really hurt the Dodgers‘ offensive production. Max Muncy seems to be back in typical Muncy fashion, and rookie Gavin Lux, another player who has been up and down at the plate, has seemed to have found some consistency while providing very good defense at shortstop filling in for the injured Seager.

But the player that needs to get it going, and he seems to have found his stroke in the last 2 weeks, is Betts. Mookie is the straw that stirs the drink. He is the Dodgers catalyst on the field and in the clubhouse. The Dodgers need their lead-off man to be the player he was in the postseason. The former AL MVP got off to a slow start and has dealt with injuries, including a flu bug and playing centerfield when Bellinger is out, which has affected his play. But Mookie started to get hot when Dodger Stadium returned to full capacity, and it looks like he has figured it out. As long as Mookie is healthy, he’ll be fine, and the least of the Dodgers worries.

The most consistent hitter for the Dodgers has been Turner. Armed with a new 3-year deal, the Dodgers‘ third baseman continues to be everything for L.A. on the field and in the clubhouse. Turner still plays above-average defense, is hitting for power and average, and is as clutch as they come in the game, with his leadership invaluable to the Dodgers. With Seager out with injury, Lux has filled in nicely and could be the future shortstop if the Dodgers decide to move on from Seager, last year’s World Series MVP. While it may sound crazy, would it be prudent to give Seager a massive deal with his injury history? Yes, what he did last postseason was amazing, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and the Dodgers could use that (presumably) $300 million on a few players or another superstar player. Lux has shown he is more than capable of handling the load at short and at a more reasonable price tag.

This was supposed to be the year Bellinger broke out, after all, it is an odd year. But he has been injured most of the season, limiting him on the field and at the plate. But Belly has returned, last Saturday hitting a game-winning home run and then following that up with another “Belly-Bomb” on Sunday, giving the Dodgers and their faithful hope that he will have a monster second half of the season. AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor have provided nice sock from the right side of the plate, and Matt Beatty has been a pleasant surprise from the left side of the plate.

Will Smith and Austin Barnes are as good as 1-2 punch as there is baseball behind the plate. Smith is a superior offensive player to Barnes and has all the tools to be an elite catcher. The Dodgers need to have Smith’s bat in the lineup. He balances out the batting order and makes an already tough lineup even tougher. Barnes has been Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher, and in somewhat surprising fashion, he has had a decent year hitting.

 

The Dodgers pitching staff has an elite 4 starters, no other team in baseball can boast that. But the Dodgers also need to get more consistent starts out of Kershaw in order to separate from the rest of the league.

 

Dodgers vs Braves
Photo Credit: Brynn Anderson/AP

Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, and Julio Urias are as good as they come. Only the San Diego Padres can boast three starting pitchers that match up well against the Dodgers. I used the Padres as the example since I feel they are the one team that matches up well against the Dodgers. Between the two teams, Kershaw and Ian Snell are the two pitchers that should have fans concerned when they start. It sounds crazy, right? Let me explain.

Snell is not good away from San Diego, and he has issues after the 5th inning. Kershaw is not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, but he is still better than most. Neither guy is as consistent as you would think and can be hit hard on any given night. That can’t be said that with Buehler, Bauer, or Urias, who have been way more consistent in the 2021 season, the same can be said the Padres‘ other two frontline starters, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove.

Buehler and Bauer have been as good as expected for the Dodgers, maybe even better than they hoped. The only question is, how will the new crackdown on sticky substances affect Bauer? I don’t think it will be a major issue, if one at all, other than annoying the Cy Young winner. But Urias has been the story. The young southpaw from Mexico has finally become everything the organization had hoped for when they brought him up to the big leagues. His stuff is electric, has excellent movement on his fastballs, and has been even more impressive at the plate.

The bullpen has been good, not great. The positives are Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Victor Gonzalez, and Blake Treinen all have pitched well or are pitching well. Brusdar Graterol should be coming back from injury and is working hard to return in the second half. Still, the Dodgers need another arm in the backend to help bridge the gap to Jansen and eventually replace him after the season.

 

So what can Dodgers fans expect in the second half of the season?

 

Dodgers vs Giants
Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill/AP

I fully expect Friedman and the Dodgers to be active at the trade deadline. A player to keep an eye on is Pittsburgh Pirates‘ closer, Richard Rodriguez. Rodriguez, 31, is arbitration-eligible through 2023 and owns a 1.85 ERA. He would be a perfect bridge to Jansen and eventually replacing him after the season. If the Dodgers wanted to upgrade their starting pitching and have the best staff in baseball, Minnesota Twins ace José Berrios could be a name to watch. The haul to land him would be steep, but the Dodgers have the prospects to make that deal and still have an embarrassment of riches.

Offensively, the Dodgers may want to add a middle infielder and another outfielder. I wouldn’t expect them to go after a Trevor Story or Kyle Seager, but a big name I would think they would check in on is the Cubs Kris Bryant. He can play multiple positions, both corner infielder spots and corner outfield spots. The So Cal native is scheduled to be a free agent, and the Cubs haven’t been as enthusiastic in locking him into a long-term contract as they have been with other players.

If the New York Yankees decided to be sellers at the deadline, Glayber Torres could be a name that interests the Dodgers should they decide that they want to move off Seager. The Yankees are rumored to be enamored with Seager, so a Seager plus prospects for Torres swap could potentially happen, although that is unlikely.

The Dodgers may not make a move at the deadline, but what they need to do is match the Padres’ intensity levels when they play. The Dodgers need to play with some more urgency, like when they did last postseason. They can’t rely on last year’s championship to get them through the postseason this year, provided that they even make it. The Giants are playing lights out but have a difficult schedule the rest of the way, while San Diego has one of the easiest.

 

The Dodgers know their window is NOW and are going for, not just back-to-back titles, but having a dynasty that will be remembered in baseball history. The time is now for the Azul to get hot and start to separate from the rest of the National League.

 

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Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeArrigo

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