Dodgers: Under-performing Players Revived by Winning Streak

Jun 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill (44) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during a MLB baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill (44) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during a MLB baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dodgers became the fastest team in the National League to reach the 50-win mark. Thanks to their sizzling hot winning streak, they’ve kept up with the Arizona Diamondbacks and took the lead in the NL West. The streak’s most notable feature has been a 17-game streak of homering at least once. What’s even better, is contributions are coming from everyone on both sides of the ball, including those who struggled for most of the season.

Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner grab the headlines amidst this incredible Dodger run, but there are a few players who’ve also come alive during the streak. On offense, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig were two automatic unproductive outs until June came and they’ve improved tremendously. Pitching wise, Rich Hill has reinvented himself and seems to have found his 2016 form. In the bullpen, Brandon Morrow and Grant Dayton have also done well since returning to the team.

Joc Pederson is the most obvious player who’s improved during the winning streak. Since his return from the DL, he’s hitting .297 with four home runs and ten walks. You can’t ask for anything more from a hitter in today’s game. He’s being patient, striking out less than walking, and when he gets a pitch to handle he’s doing what he does best. Whoever fixed his swing along his rehab process deserves credit. He is much more direct to the ball but still puts a charge into it. His line drive percentage has gone up, and his home runs are no doubters.

To be fair to Puig, he wasn’t quite of an automatic out as Pederson was, but he definitely wasn’t as productive as he could’ve been. Now, the cards spell out a different story. In June, he’s slashing .299/.407/.597 with five home runs and 13 walks. Like Pederson, he’s striking out less than he’s walking. He can also run! He also has three stolen bases to go along with his 20 hits, 10 being extra base hits. One concern though is that he’s been periodically grabbing and stretching out his hamstring throughout the series against the Colorado Rockies.

Rich Hill had his fair share of critics throughout the season, myself included. He’s been unable to provide an answer until last Wednesday’s start, by inventing a new pitch. After surrendering a leadoff home run to Curtis Granderson, and getting himself into more trouble, Hill experimented. Perhaps it was inspired like Clayton Kershaw picked up arm angle changes from Hill, but Hill utilized a cutter/slider in his last start.

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Orel Hershiser first noticed it, when Hill threw a pitch that seemed to befuddle Mets hitters. It wasn’t his normal fastball which is consistently clocked at around 90-92 mph. It definitely wasn’t his curve which is clocked in the 70s, and it didn’t have as much dip.

It was an unusual pitch clocked around 86-88 mph that didn’t sink as much as a change up. In fact, there were two versions of the pitch. One was more like a straight up cutter, with only lateral movement. The other was a little slower with downward movement. Whatever it was, it helped Hill go five innings, allowing just that one run to Granderson, and striking out a season-high eight.

Brandon Morrow and Grant Dayton have been stalwarts out of the bullpen since their returns. In seven innings of work. Morrow has shut down his opponents. He’s only allowed three hits and a walk while striking out 10. Grant Dayton has also been terrific since his return. In his eight innings of work, he’s also only allowed three hits, one of them a home run. He’s struck out nine but has walked four, which is still a concern.

Sergio Romo hasn’t appeared enough to call it a comeback, but he’s been strong since returning to the team. He’s struck out seven in nearly five innings of work, only giving up a run via the long ball.

Next: Projecting Urias' Career After Surgery

There are many things Dodger fans should be thrilled about during this stretch. Though the home run derby which this run has turned into is entertaining, the little things shouldn’t be overlooked. Without these players reviving their seasons with their improvement, no one can say that everything is clicking for the Dodgers. Whether things keep going like this or not, one thing is certain. When the Dodgers are firing on all cylinders, they are the scariest team in baseball.