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    Dodgers midseason report: Offense can’t conceal serious pitching concerns
    • July 13, 2023


    HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Dodgers haven’t reached the All-Star break with fewer wins than their current 51 since 2013 when they were .500 (47-47) at the midsummer pause. But they got there with at least a share of first place in the division for the seventh time in the past nine full seasons. They didn’t do it with pitching this year. They have had the lowest staff ERA in the majors the past four seasons, no lower than fifth since 2014. But this year’s 4.50 mark ranks 23rd. Injuries have played a large factor. Seven starting pitchers have been or are on the injured list – Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Grove and Ryan Pepiot – forcing the Dodgers to turn to rookies Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan and Gavin Stone with mixed results. An offense carried by four All-Stars – Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and J.D. Martinez – has made up for it by averaging 5.55 runs per game (second in the National League) and hitting 149 home runs (second in the majors). While rookies Miguel Vargas and James Outman have struggled, role players Jason Heyward and David Peralta have been positive additions.


    KEYS TO SUCCESS: It certainly looks like the Dodgers’ offense will need to continue carrying them. Betts (26 home runs and a .965 OPS, third in the majors) and Freeman (a .320 batting average and .952 OPS) are having MVP-level seasons. It would help to get more from Max Muncy (21 home runs but a .198 average) and Outman (NL Rookie of the Month in April but just a .205 hitter with a .595 OPS since) to help lengthen the lineup. The Dodgers could probably make the playoffs limping along with the sub-standard pitching staff they currently have. But their goals are annually higher – a division title and a deep playoff run – and that might require a midseason makeover of the pitching staff.

    BIGGEST CONCERN: If it isn’t already clear – it’s the pitching staff. As the starting rotation stands now, it’s hard to envision who would start a Game 3 in the playoffs behind Kershaw and Urias. Would it be Gonsolin, who has resembled last year’s All-Star only in his affection for cats? Would they go with a rookie, Miller or Sheehan? The shortcomings of the starting rotation – only five teams have gotten fewer innings from their starters (although one is the AL-leading Tampa Bay Rays) – have exacerbated the struggles of the bullpen. Daniel Hudson’s return was supposed to stabilize that group. After three appearances, he was back on the IL and the relief corps seems far from October-caliber.

    TRADE POSSIBILITIES: A month ago, Andrew Friedman said this about the possibility of trade acquisitions, “I feel very confident that with the depth of our system that we can be in any conversation we want to be in.” Those conversations will almost certainly center on pitching, pitching and more pitching – and maybe a right-handed bat to make up for the lack of contributions from Vargas, Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson. But who will they have those conversations with? The addition of a third wild card in each league has made it easier for teams to fool themselves into thinking they are in contention, thus muddying the waters of the trade market. In the American League, for example, 11 teams reached the break within five games of a playoff spot. Of the teams currently clearly out of contention, the St. Louis Cardinals could make Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks or Geovanny Gallegos available. The Chicago White Sox could offer up Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito or Kendall Graveman. And then there is the big prize – Shohei Ohtani. The injury-depleted Angels could change everything about the trade market – and potentially their future – by making Ohtani available.

    SCHEDULE: As usual, the Dodgers have been an outstanding team at home. Their 29-16 record at Dodger Stadium is topped only by Tampa Bay and the Atlanta Braves – the two teams that reached the break with the best records in each league. But the Dodgers have been mediocre on the road, posting a .500 record (22-22) and losing series to inferior teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. If the NL West race continues to be close, it might not be decided until the final week of the season. The Dodgers will spend that on the road in Colorado and San Francisco.

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    ​ Orange County Register