The Los Angeles Dodgers have gotten a rude-ish reminder of exactly what a 162-game season feels like in 2021.
Overall, if your roster is as overflowing with talent as the Dodgers’ group is, your arrow will eventually point its way towards contention, and the team has somewhat stabilized recently.
But oh, there’ll be days when the game-winning hit is recorded by someone even the rosiest of projections didn’t see coming. There’ll be weeks where the bullpen feels empty, weeks that might’ve portended disaster in a 60-game sprint, but are just part of the fabric of a typical baseball season (as infuriating as they are in the moment).
And there’ll be players who help you weather the storm over a longer period of time — long enough to make you think you might just have gotten a steal.
By Pythagorean Record, yes, the Dodgers are still under-performing a bit; the numbers indicate they should be slightly better at 43-24, and likely have Mitch White, Alex Vesia, and their early-May bullpen slide to blame for this unfortunate disparity.
That said … things could be so much worse than they are right now.
A team that’s played a hobbled Mookie Betts, while losing Zach McKinstry, Dustin May, David Price, Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, Max Muncy, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger (twice!) could easily have been run roughshod over by the San Diego Padres and shocking San Francisco Giants.
Instead, they’re right around the first-place marker in mid-June, and they have their inherent resiliency to thank … as well as these contributions from a few surprising places.
The Dodgers can thank these 3 surprising fill-in players for 2021.
3. Matt Beaty
Was Matt Beaty expected to participate in the Dodgers’ season to some degree? Sure. A forthcoming cameo would’ve shocked no one when spring training wrapped.
The shine was somewhat off Beaty, though, considering the team’s excitement about handing the utility gig off to McKinstry, as well as the entrenched Edwin Rios, who seemed to be the Dodgers’ first off the bench in a power-hitting situation.
Unfortunately, McKinstry’s dynamite first season in the bigs got derailed by a few aches and pains, and Rios was quickly lost for the year, forced to undergo surgery for a torn labrum.
Enter Beaty, who made the Opening Day roster, yet recorded only a single hit prior to his demotion in favor of Alex Vesia midway through April. When he was recalled in time for April 24’s game, though, he became a house afire. Most prominently, Beaty was the catalyst for the team’s much-needed 16-4 shellacking in Milwaukee that didn’t necessarily kickstart their turnaround, but began LA’s process of normalizing. That day, he socked a homer and drove in seven runs in a 4-for-6 day, bringing balance to the lineup.
Without Max Muncy for the time being, Beaty and another member of this list will be relied on far more often to man first base. For the whole season, the 28-year-old has posted a 114 OPS+ and hit .276 with a trio of homers, and most of his contributions have come when the Dodgers needed them most. We look forward to that continuing.