The Los Angeles Dodgers went into the All-Star break in style with a walk-off win against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The game was a microcosm of the Dodgers’ season so far, where they started the game with just one run but then scored six runs over the last two innings to overwhelm their opponent and capture the victory.
The Dodgers have the second-best record in all of baseball, but sit in second place of the NL West thanks to the surprising play of the San Francisco Giants. It hasn’t been easy for the defending World Series Champions; they’ve had to deal with injuries, mediocre play, and their big off-season free-agent signing placed on administrative leave due to sexual assault allegations.
Despite all the adversity, the Dodgers have had highlights and reminders that they still may be the best team in all of baseball. Let’s quickly review their first half of the season.
First Half MVP: Max Muncy
Of course, Max Muncy hit the walk-off home run to lift the Dodgers on Sunday. Muncy has been carrying the Dodgers for most of the season. So it’s no surprise he’s on the National League All-Star team after leading NL first basemen in OBP (.414), slugging percentage (.559), and (obviously) OPS (.972).
Muncy leads the Dodgers in all those categories as well as home runs (19) and RBI (52). His defense has also been pristine, as evidenced by the fact he’s committed just two errors on 482 chances at both first and second base.
Though he struggled early in the season, hitting .212 with five home runs on May 7 with the Dodgers limping to a 17-16 record, since then, Muncy has hit .288 with a 1.012 OPS and 13 home runs to help the Dodgers go 31-16 over that span. If Muncy continues slugging at that clip, he could be in the running for the NL MVP.
The Dodgers’ low point was early in the season, but it’s still drastically affecting the team. After going 13-2 in their first 15 games — the best start for a World Series champion — the bottom dropped out. The Dodgers went 5-15 over the next 20 games and fell into third place in the NL West.
During that time, injuries decimated the roster as they lost Cody Bellinger to a long-term injury and starter Dustin May for the season. The offense looked inept, the starters’ best efforts were wasted, and the bullpen was … awful.
Thankfully, the team has righted the ship since then, going 38-18 with a few hiccups, and are back atop the MLB. Just gotta catch the Giants now.
The Moment: Rings
The greatest moment of the season didn’t even come while the team was playing — it was all pomp and pageantry. For their home opener, the first time playing in front of fans since Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS, the Dodgers’ pre-game ceremony featured collecting their World Series rings.
It was the first opportunity for Dodgers fans to celebrate their 2020 World Series win, their first in 32 years, and featured a number of MLB legends and Dodgers legends congratulating the team for achieving the massive accomplishment.
The loudest ovation was reserved for longtime great Clayton Kershaw, who suffered through nine title-less Octobers. This time, Kershaw was celebrated for helping the Dodgers reach the pinnacle and he relished being able to celebrate in front of the loyal Dodgers faithful.
A baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and this season is no different. But the Dodgers find themselves in a bit of a precarious situation. This team has holes. They need to make upgrades at the trade deadline after the losses of Dustin May and Trevor Bauer. They need bullpen help.
It’s unclear who they might go after, but major moves need to be made. The Dodgers have the prospect capital to make multiple deals, and if they want to repeat as World Series champs and continue to keep pace with the surprising Giants and upstart Padres, they cannot sit back ahead of the July 31 deadline.
Assuming they make the appropriate moves, Dodgers fans can expect another deep postseason run, but they need to be calculated in their approach. As for the offense, there’s nothing to worry about. They’re one of the best in MLB. It’d be nice if the defense tightened up a bit, but assuming the offense continues bludgeoning opposing pitching and there’s a renewed spark on their own pitching staff, expect a scorching second half from LA.