The Los Angeles Dodgers have withstood their early-May slump. They’ve shed pitchers along the way, but they’ve mostly clicked on all cylinders in a first half that ended with them playing their best baseball. They’ll likely get better in the second half, but they’re still 56-35 and 30-14 at the full-capacity friendly confines of Dodger Stadium.
And yet — and YET! — they still remain two games behind the San Francisco Giants at the All-Star break.
Instead of angrily asking, “How?” and “Why?” though, we’ll just calmly assess how the Dodgers can easily reverse this narrative in the second half.
Are the Giants “for real”? Of course they are! How real they are, though, we’re not positive. Are they Wild Card For Real or Hold Off the Dodgers’ Charge For Real?
Entering 2021, LA likely thought they had it made. A 110-win ceiling? Sure, sign us up. Only viable divisional rival is a burgeoning Padres team that was already beaten back by this same Dodgers core last postseason? Great! Looking forward to relegating them to the Wild Card Game.
Instead, though, the Dodgers have encountered the same thorn they’ve pulled out of their toes for the past 60 years, and have gone through an unexpected roster purge of their own. The pitching has been a real challenge. Several key components to the offense have gone down injured, and some haven’t reemerged. Their main rivals have no fear of facing the supposed All-Star team that was assembled to run Hollywood all summer long.
In order for the Dodgers to distance themselves into the summer’s muggier months, they’ll need to make these adjustments.
3 things that must change for the Dodgers to leap the Giants in 2021.
3. Get Corey Seager and “Real” Cody Bellinger Back
The last we heard about Seager, he was in the midst of a “plateau” in his rehab, and Dave Roberts’ hope that he could return prior to the All-Star break clearly didn’t come to fruition. The shortstop (in his walk year) still hasn’t appeared in a game since May 15, and posted a quiet 117 OPS+ in his first month-and-a-half of the season before the unfortunate fracture. He’s a monstrous part of this team — some might say the MVP! — and will be able to swing the narrative somewhat once he returns.
As for Bellinger? Breaking news: he’s not a true talent 66 OPS+ guy. The fact that the Dodgers have gotten to the 56-win mark at the break without the real Belli showing up more than once or twice is stunning and … yeah, it shows why this team was projected not just for first place, but for historically great things. Lose May, lose Kershaw, never really have Bellinger or Seager and you’re still just a pair of games back of the league’s best record.
For the order of operations to flip in the NL West, though, both men will have to return to something approximating full strength. It won’t even take a laser-focused fire-spewing run to the top of the National League. Normal levels of production should do it.