Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers Dominant Everywhere You Look
Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Dodgers win
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Do you remember where you were on July 26? Probably not, because it’s a rather insignificant date in the grand scheme of human history. Yet that date was when the Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, settling for a split of their Opening Series.

Many were discouraged. Some worried. Others were anxious.

This is going to be such a short season, the Dodgers can’t afford to split a series with one of the worst teams in baseball. They shouldn’t be scoring one run against (**Googles Giants’ pitching staff**) Drew Smyly, Shaun Anderson, Wandy Peralta, Rico Garcia, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers and Trevor Gott.

Fast-forward to halfway through the 2020 season, and, wow.

After their first day off in two weeks, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball no matter where you look. They’re 22-8 with a win percentage 103 points better than the next-best National League team.

Their run differential (79) is nearly double that of the team closest to them, Minnesota Twins (41). Their ERA is the best in baseball (2.65), they’ve scored the most runs (171) and have hit the most home runs (59).

Safe to say that those first two losses to the Giants were a bit of an aberration. And so as we look back on the season thus far, is going to start a new series that will release every week —- the first of which you’re currently reading.

The premise is simple: three encouraging things from the week before and three things that are concerning — or at least worth keeping an eye on. Given that this is the first one, however, we’re going to use this first one as an opportunity to reflect on the season as a whole.

Three Up

1) Heard all along how good Mookie Betts is, but… this good?

He’s third in baseball in WAR (1.8), second in home runs (11), third in runs scored (25), seventh in RBI (24), seventh in slugging (.664) and seventh in stolen bases (5). He’s also hitting .300, all while remaining one of the best defenders (and baserunners) in the entire league.

2) Surprises on the pitching staff and in particular: Tony Gonsolin, Dylan Floro, Jake McGee and Adam Kolarek.

No offense meant to those expected to be good (Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, etc.) — but the aforementioned group have been remarkable.

Tony Gonsolin was No. 8 on the Dodgers’ depth chart when it came to starting pitchers, but all he has done when given a chance is throw a combined 14.2 scoreless innings in three starts. He currently leads all Dodger pitchers in WAR.

Then there are a trio of bullpen arms: Floro, McGee and Kolarek. Even those bullish on Floro didn’t see this coming: 13 innings and a 0.69 ERA thanks in part to a 10/1 K/BB ratio so far this season.

Right behind him is McGee —- the Rockies castoff who somehow immediately regained his career-best form. Now throwing almost exclusively fastballs, McGee has a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings and is striking out 13.50 batters per nine innings.

Kolarek was optioned earlier this season but then returned. In 10 innings, he has yet to allow a run and has seen only four reach base against him. For someone many worried about given the new three-batter rule, he has been downright dominant.

3) Bringing the gas. Among pitchers this season, the Dodgers boast four of the fastest 23 four-seam fastballs throwers (on average): Dustin May (98.5 mph), Brusdar Graterol (98.3), Joe Kelly (97) and Blake Treinen (96.8).

All four are also in the top 16 for average sinker speed, with Graterol having the fastest — at an average of 99 mph.

This is noteworthy because it always feels like these are types of pitches that play up in the postseason, and the Dodgers have never really had much in the way of power arms in the bullpen.

The group mentioned above, however, will change that. And it doesn’t even include Caleb Ferguson and McGee, who both throw hard as well.

Three Down

1) Admittedly it’s hard to find much room for concern given how the season has played out thus far, but the top spot goes to a couple of pitchers the Dodgers were expecting big things out of this season on the mound: Ross Stripling and Alex Wood.

While Wood made one start and then went on the injured list, that one outing was a miserable one in which he seemed a bit all over the place. Stripling, on the other hand, has been the Dodgers’ least-valuable pitcher (-0.3 WAR) through six starts — allowing an ERA of 5.46.

With Gonsolin charging for a spot in the rotation (and May having cemented himself already), Stripling and Wood could find themselves back in the bullpen fairly soon.

2) While most of the Dodger hitters have started to figure things out at the plate, two who still haven’t are Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez.

Yes, Pederson has four home runs and the fourth-best walk rate on the team, but with a batting average of .184 that’s about where the positivity ends. Unfortunately for him, AJ Pollock is crushing baseballs right now and so his regular playing time could be in jeopardy.

That leads to Hernandez, who has a better batting average (.241) but an on-base-percentage of .277 thanks to the second-worst walk rate on the team. If you take out the monster game he had on Opening Day, these numbers all look even worse.

3) While attempting to not be too critical of manager Dave Roberts given how good he is at most aspects of his job, if there’s one question mark it’s his in-game decision making.

Unfortunately, that issue has raised its head a couple of times this season. Whether it’s questionable pitching or pinch-hitting, they have led to a couple of unnecessary losses.

Again, it’s early and it’s the regular season, but the margin for error is so slim in the postseason that here’s to hoping he gets this figured out sooner rather than later.

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