At first-half's end, Dodgers a formidable team
Quality pitching, offensive depth lead to best record in MLB
LOS ANGELES -- As first halves go, the Dodgers had the best.
They have the best record in baseball. The best home record in baseball. The best pitcher in baseball. One of the two best rookies in baseball. The lowest pitching staff ERA in baseball. The most All-Stars in the National League.
They've rolled to one of the best first halves in decades. They've embraced today's obsession with power by setting a club record for home runs in a month with 53 in June. They've adjusted to consistently brief outings from starting pitchers with a relentless wave of hard-throwing relievers.
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And they've reflected the upbeat personality of manager Dave Roberts with a gritty determination that has led to 23 comeback victories.
If they can keep all of that going, they are headed to a fifth consecutive division title, and maybe more.
What went right
A lot. Quality offensive depth overcame serious injuries to key players Adrian Gonzalez, Alvin Toles and Andre Ethier. Cody Bellinger became this year's Corey Seager. Alex Wood turned into another Clayton Kershaw. Chris Taylor came out of nowhere to turn into another Justin Turner. Kenley Jansen redefined the closer role with multiple four-out saves. Yasiel Puig has become an offensive force again. Austin Barnes has earned added time behind the plate. Management manipulated the roster to keep the flow of fresh bodies coming. Manager Dave Roberts has been pushing the right buttons, especially with his bullpen usage. As a result, they had six All-Stars for the first time since 1991.
What went wrong
The Julio Urias experiment failed, and he's done for the year. Scott Kazmir hasn't pitched in a Major League game. Earlier noted injuries sidelined quality hitters. Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been inconsistent. Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke haven't regained their pre-injury production. Joc Pederson and Puig still struggle against left-handed pitching.
What we learned
Management has solved the riddle of brittle players by stockpiling more talent than the competition, especially pitchers. Together with Roberts, they have filled the clubhouse with unselfish talent willing to do what's asked. Roberts' energy and optimism has rubbed off on a team that doesn't quit.
First half top player (non-pitcher) and rookie
Bellinger didn't make the club out of Spring Training, but he made the MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard and T-Mobile Home Run Derby. From his late April arrival until a slump over the last two weeks, he was the most lethal hitter in the National League.
First half top pitcher
Wood can't get no respect. He didn't make the first cut for the All-Star team and he's still No. 2 on his club to Kershaw, who continues rewriting the record book. Both have current 10-game winning streaks, but Kershaw leads the Majors in wins and innings pitched.