The Los Angeles Dodgers have been one of the top stories in baseball, in some form or another, all year long. Since the end of June, the Dodgers have been the kind of story they’d hoped for from the start, having gone on a tear that’s given them control of the NL West race with seven-plus weeks to go in the regular season.
On June 21, the Dodgers were flailing at 30-42, with manager Don Mattingly’s job in jeopardy. By the All-Star break they were up to 48-47. The hot streak hasn’t stopped since the break, and Los Angeles is now 64-50 with a 5 ½ game lead on the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
Yasiel Puig, the rookie sensation in rightfield, has gotten the ink for this turnaround. There’s no denying two things—that his play has been outstanding, and that the turnaround coincided with his being called up to the majors.
I have no issue with the media giving Puig the hype, even if they did get carried away with the debate about whether he should have been in the All-Star Game. But let’s not forget that it’s still a team effort and there’s a lot of heroes in Los Angeles right now.
Hanley Ramirez is back to looking like a stud shortstop, after a bad ending to his tenure in Miami and an injury-riddled start to his time in Los Angeles, after being traded here last season. Ramirez has a stat line of a .367 OBP/.549 slugging. We should note that his return to full health coincides with the team’s resurgence as much as Puig’s arrival does.
Carl Crawford has gotten himself healthy and happy for the first time since leaving Tampa Bay via free agency. He was miserable in Boston, then got hurt, and now that he’s back in the lineup, Crawford has posted a .365 OBP over the past month. Mark Ellis, the veteran second baseman, is making a similar steady contribution to filling the base paths, with a .356 OPB in that same timeframe.
Then let’s add in that while Andre Ethier hasn’t gotten back to being the power threat he was a couple years ago, he does have a solid stat line of .371/.430 in his last month of play. The lineup is so complete and well-balanced that it doesn’t miss a beat even with Adrian Gonzalez slumping and Matt Kemp on the disabled list until September.
Los Angeles expected to get great starting pitching this year, and it’s finally coming through. Clayton Kershaw has looked like a Cy Young arm all season, and now Zack Greinke has joined him, with a 2.29 ERA in his last five starts. Ricky Nolasco has given some stability to the back end of the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ru continues to be effective. And no one could have predicted what happened to Chris Capuano, who has simply taken off and posted a 1.90 ERA in his last five trips to the post.
Not only does the #5 starter look like an ace, the bullpen is suddenly in lockdown mode from top to bottom. Again using the last month as our timeframe, there are six relievers with nine innings or more of work. Five of them have ERAs under 2.00, and the one who doesn’t, Brandon League, has vulture three wins.
Mattingly has been able to turn to 22-year-old lefty Paco Rodriguez, and 24-year-old righty Chris Withrow for some brilliant setup work, and these are the kind of live, young arms that can transform a bullpen for the long haul.
From top to bottom, everything about the Dodgers is clicking right now. And Puig? He’s got a .430/.506 stat line and plays electrifying defense. Even as our MLB coverage tries to dig below the surface, you can’t ignore it when the surface is glittering gold.