With the first half of the season under the belt, the Dodgers at 51-39 sit 4.5 games in front of the Giants for the lead in the NL West. Yet there are skeptics out there, Dodgers fans included, that feel they haven’t done enough to please the bookends. There are the cries out there that the Dodgers can’t beat teams with winning records, most notably, the Cardinals and Giants, whom they have a combined record of 5-14. But when you look at the overall picture, the Dodgers owe no apologies to anyone. In spite losing 2 of our Opening Day starting pitchers for the season due to injury, not to mention an offense that has been either hot or cold at times with nothing in between, Mattingly has, in my opinion, done a good job keeping it all together. ( That will not stop me from questioning his decision making in the 2nd half…) .
Even beyond what Zack and Kid K have given us ( Even for what Kershaw by his standards considers a slow start ), the backend of the rotation has done an admirable job, particularly Mike Bolsinger. Our current backend, however, has at times had difficulty going deep into games, no doubt influencing Mattingly’s decision to split up the rotation to start the 2nd half.
Around the diamond, The Blue overall has been pretty solid. Not flashy, with exception of Young Joc, but solid. It is possible that we may have 6 players with 20 plus HR’s at seasons end, with Joc already having a lock and Adrian more than a lock ( 10- Justin Turner 14- Yasmani Grandal 10-Andre Ethier 10- Alex Guerrero ). If Puig can stay healthy in the 2nd half, it would not be out of the question for him to cross the 20 HR plateau as well, barring any trade involving The Cuban Missile.
With the power display our Boys in Blue have displayed, the Blue has also showed an inability to score when not playing long ball. As the schedule gets more difficult in the 2nd half, with matchups against the Nationals, Mets, and the surging Pirates and Angels and a much improved Cubs team, and of course, and 7 more against the hated ones, the Blue will have to show they can win games without necessarily having to rely on the long ball.
As great as our 1-2 combo of Greinke-Kershaw has been ( Yes, I did put Greinke in front because he has been our ace to this point ), if the Blue is to take any pressure off the starters, run production will be a key. It will also be interesting to see what additions by subtractions ( Yes, I do mean possible trades and acquisitions ) will take place, in particular, starting pitching to help alleviate the lack of innings from the backend. Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto are names that still get talked about.
As much as I was thrilled with Joc’s performance in the HR Derby ( I love the new HR Derby format ), it is my hope that he does not fall too much in love with that HR swing that has had a reputation of slowing down past HR Derby champs in the 2nd half. I still feel he will cross the 30 plus HR plateau. What I want to see is how he, like any rookie especially with his gifts, will continue to progress in making adjustments to big league pitching given he’s more than made a name for himself already, which means pitchers will be making their adjustments on him as well. What I want to see is If he can continue to show steady improvement average wise. If he can get his average above, I’ll say, .245, continue to get on base and display his stellar D, I don’t see why he should not be NL ROY. I feel he will no doubt cross the 30 plus HR .
This food for thought. Going back to 2008, when faced against teams in the post-season whom they struggled with during the regular season…
2008-9, 2013 NLDS vs. Cubs, Cardinals and Braves
Went 2-5 against all 3 in the regular season. Swept both the Cubs and Cards, beat the Braves 3 games to 1.
2009 and 2013 NLCS vs. Phillies and Cardinals
Went 4-3 against both in the regular season. I think you know the rest…
Around The Horn… What Drei Said in April…
In the American League….
What Drei said…
” If there was ever a case for parity ( a word we’ll be hearing throughout the season ) in one division, the AL East makes a case. ”
Only 6.5 games separate the last place Red Sox from the Yankees, the all-star breaks division leaders, to the surprise of many. The AL East is still wide open for the taking
“The Royals we’re carried for much of last season by their pitching, particularly their bullpen. However the loss of James Shields could be the difference between the Royals making another October run….”
Kansas City has been a strong home team this season, leading the AL with 30 home W’s. The Twins, picked here to finish last, have been a pleasant surprise and sit only 4.5 games behind the Royals
” The Angels, baseball’s best team record wise last season, will be putting up some loud offensive numbers again with Mike Trout ready to take leadership down I-5. The starting 5, anchored by Jared Weaver, is not as dominant as the starters in Seattle but is still formidable. Having 2 lefty’s in the rotation should help the Halos as well… “
After a slow start, the Halos offense has begun to heat up, erasing a 7.5 game deficit to the surprising Astros. The Halos are primed for another division crown and may be the AL’s best team heading into the 2nd half
In the National League
What Drei said…
“The main concern in the nations capital will be the health of the lineup. with their key players, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman playing in 100 games or less in 2014. This team is still pretty deep talent wise and should run away the the NL East…”
The Nats we’re also slow out of the gate but have recovered nicely heading into the 2nd half. The Mets, struggling offensively until a strong finish, are only 2 back of the Nats.
” After going 21 consecutive seasons without a winning record, the Bucs have made it to the playoffs in 2 straight. After suffering through a long stretch of futility, one could not blame a Bucs fan for raising expectations. “
A furious finish by the Bucs to the first half, which saw them take 3 of 4 from the division leading Cardinals, has the Steel City primed for yet another post-season run. A good friend of mine, a Buc fan since the We Are Family days, told me the other day they’re not settling for a Wild Card this year. It’s possible that baseball’s 2nd best team may be playing in the one-game WC. The Bucs and Cards have been that good. The Cubs continue to be the sleeper
And of course…
The NL WEST
” Since Don Mattingly took over the managerial reins in 2011, the Dodgers have improved their win total by an average of 4 games. Should that trend continue into this season, the Blue Crew should finish with 98 wins, and yet, he seems to be on the hot seat every season… “
” The Padres may be the divisions most improved ball club, and the additions of Kemp, Justin Upton, and the addition of James Shields to an already highly regarded pitching staff led by Tyson Ross, could have the Friars in contention for a spot in October… “
Of course, that so-called hot-seat has not cooled off any, at least among a good amount of Dodger fans. As for the Friars, they have been anything but contenders. As for who got the better end of the deal during the off-season trade that involved these two clubs ? Our neighbors to the south have admitted as much . The Giants, for all their dominance against The Blue this season, have had stretches of prolonged losing streaks, something The Blue, with their occasional offensive struggles, have managed to avoid.
Drei’s Mid-Season Rankings vs. ESPN’s Rankings
As you will see, our rankings don’t differ much, with the biggest differential being the Orioles, where Drei has them 5 spots lower than ESPN’s ” experts “…
1. Cardinals – 2. Pirates – 3. Dodgers +1 4. Royals -1 5. Nationals – 6. Angels +1 7. Astros -1 8. Yankees – 9. Twins – 10. Cubs – 11. Mets +1 12. Giants +1 13. Tigers +1 14. Rays +3 15. Blue Jays – 16. Orioles -5 17. DBacks +3 18. Rangers – 19. Red Sox +2 20. Indians -4 21. White Sox +1 22. Braves -3 23. Mariners – 24. A’s +1 25. Padres +1 26. Reds -2 27. Marlins +2 28. Rockies -1 29. Brewers -1 30. Phillies
So here we go into the 2nd half, as usual , with more questions than answers. Does Drei do any change-ups from his pre-season picks ? Nah. Still sticking with…
Mariners to win the AL West, in spite of their disappointing season to this point filled with high expectations. A resurrection of Refuse to Lose, 20th anniversary ?
The Halos over Boston in the Wild Card, even with Bostons struggles…
The Dodgers over the Tigers in the Fall Classic, though through the looks of things as of right now, Motown may have to go the route of the Wild Card…