Dodgers rank surprisingly close to lowly Yankees in important defensive stat
By Mike Luciano
While the Los Angeles Dodgers can at least take solace in the fact that they aren’t in the middle of a depressing slog of a season like the AL favorite New York Yankees are, this team is not as dominant as they were expected to be, and they have allowed some of their NL West rivals to overtake them in the standings.
The Dodgers have more than enough pitching to carry this team thanks to Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, and even a banged-up lineup that is underperforming a bit is one of the best in baseball.
The secret ingredient for their success might come by fixing the defense.
LA only has a handful of players that are currently playing above-average defense, and their struggles in that area have been proven in numerical form thanks to defensive runs saved.
The Dodgers placed 16th in defensive runs saved, which puts them slightly above the Yankees despite what a catastrophe their season has been, especially with players fitting in wildly out of position in a world where defense has seemingly been neglected.
Perhaps more concerning is the fact that the Dodgers are the worst defense in the NL West in this metric, while the rival Padres are the third-best defensive team in baseball.
The Dodgers are struggling on defense…to the level of the Yankees.
Defensive WAR backs up these assertions. The Dodgers only have four players on the roster with a defensive WAR of 0.2 or higher, and one of them is Yoshi Tsutsugo, who is far from an everyday player. Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, and Gavin Lux are the only players on this team who can claim to have shown exceptional defense this year.
Zach McKinstry and Matt Beaty might be promising young bats, but the Dodgers have seen leads slip away in part thanks to some poor defense from those two. Albert Pujols has barely been on this team, but the aging legend is already making a negative impact on the defensive end. Justin Turner has been a net negative, and the versatile Chris Taylor is in the red.
Cody Bellinger has missed a good chunk of this season, meaning that while the Dodgers were able to lean on one of the best defensive outfields in the game last year, they’ve struggled while trying to fill personnel gaps. Perhaps as Bellinger gets back into the swing of things, the Dodgers’ defensive skills will return.
With a few exceptions, there is a correlation between strong defensive play and a solid record, as only two of the 10 best defensive teams are below .500. Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily need to try mashing six home runs every game, as cleaning up their defensive woes could lead them on a path back to contention.