Dodgers Quarterly Breakdown: Second Quarter

The Dodgers are now 81 games through the season. This is technically the halfway point which, obviously, also means the end of the 2nd quarter. And that’s what I’m covering, games 41-81. Through the first 40 games, the Dodgers had the most wins at 25 but the 4th best winning percentage in baseball. Since then, they again have the most wins but also topped every team in winning percentage going 30-11 (.732) with their run differential now leading baseball by over 20 points. For the most part, they’ve improved with a slight reversion. I’ll go ahead and provide a general breakdown of each aspect of the team.

Offense

The Dodgers still sit in the top 5 of most statistics but have shown a bit of regression which is completely natural. Teams make the proper adjustments with the amount of information available as the season goes on. And when you’re going up against the type of juggernaut this offense had been early, scouting reports will be vigorously studied. With that in mind, the decline wasn’t drastic but there were a few stats that may be concerning if they continue to fall in the ranks:

Pitches per Plate Appearance (P/PA):

4.04/1st quarter

3.86/2nd

Walking percentage (BB%):

11.0/1st quarter

8.9/2nd

Batting Average (BA) with Runners In Scoring Position (RISP):

.281/1st quarter

.248/2nd quarter

It may seem like a difference of only a few points but stretched out over 1000 PA’s it can prove to be significant slides. It also reveals the type of troublesome issues the offense was dealing with last season.

Even with the backslide in those stats, they were still able to average over 5 runs per game. The likely cause can be directed at certain players that weren’t producing or even on the active roster in the first 40 games, being able to help keep the offense performing at a high clip in the next 41. The team was still disciplined at the plate regardless of not seeing as many pitches and also scored more runs from the 7th to 9th innings, e.g. the 6 walk-off wins (5 in the 2nd quarter) that’s tied for the most in baseball. All in all, the offense was arguably the best in baseball and there’s no reason to believe they won’t continue to be.

Starting Pitching

The rotation was missing Kershaw and Hill for a good chunk of the 1st quarter and still were sitting atop most leaderboards. But with the starting staff mostly healthy for the 2nd quarter, a big reason for the team’s success became abundantly clear.

A Quality Start (QS) is when a starting pitcher (SP) has an outing of allowing 3 earned runs or less while pitching 6 or more innings. With the offense averaging over 5 runs per game, it’s simple to understand how vital this statistic is to winning games. Through the first 40 starts the rotation had a total of 17. In the next 41, they put up 31! That led MLB in that span and ultimately put them in the lead overall. The rotation also led in innings pitched, that’s mostly due to the SP’s collectively leading all teams in outings of 7+ innings pitched.

The starters blew away every team in ERA from May 10th to June 25th. They went from having a 3.55 in the 1st quarter to a 1.97 through the 2nd. As a matter of fact, the next closest rotation was the Astros and they were over a run and a 3rd worse at 3.28.  Making that possible was Ryu, Kershaw, Buehler, Hill, and Maeda each having an ERA under 3.01.

They’re on a torrid pace and there might be some regression, but it doesn’t seem likely or to be much of one if there is.

Bullpen

The relievers have remained an enigma. There hasn’t been that much of a difference from games 1-40 to games 41-81. Pitchers who did well in the 1st quarter, regressed in the 2nd. When you think a pitcher has turned a corner after 1 or 2 clean outings, they end up melting down. They made a positive difference in the ERA department going from a 4.50 down to a 3.91. So, some progress was made there. But even with most of their issues in mind, there have been a couple silver linings.

As I mentioned earlier, the starters have the most games of 7+ innings pitched. This is beneficial because the bullpen has the lowest weighted on-base average against in the 8th and 9th innings together. Any innings previous, they’ve mostly stunk it up. This proves there’s less than a handful of bullpen arms reliable enough to finish games with Jansen, Baez, and Urias being the inclined options with their overall consistency throughout the season. But even this bullpen isn’t as bad to consistently blow leads with only 6 to 3 outs to work with.

The other positive to take from the 2nd quarter is the most recent improvement of certain relievers (Joe Kelly and Yimi Garcia) and the collective in June. As a whole they’re in the top 3 in K-BB%, wOBA against and ERA. That’s, essentially, the trifecta of an effective BP. So, maybe they’re starting to come around, FINALLY. That being said, I still believe the Dodgers should and will find a reliable RP to improve their bullpen.

Defense

As mentioned in the last quarterly breakdown, this one’s easy and not much needs to be said about the defense other than they’re an elite group. Now defensive statistics are still, generally, highly flawed but they’ve come a long way from just using errors and fielding percentage as measuring tools to analyze a player’s defensive talent and value. One metric that’s highly used is Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). This statistic, using data provided by Sports Info Solutions, tracks every batted ball and evaluates the probability of it being turned into an out. It quantifies the likelihood of double plays, outfield assists, a fielder’s range, preventing stolen bases, catcher framing, etc. The way it’s read: 0.0 is the league average. Anything higher is considered better and any number lower, worse. As a whole, the Dodgers are first in DRS in baseball. And the gap between them and 2nd best is a difference of over 30 points. 30! That’s not common. Going back to 2003, which is as far back that can be researched of the stat being applied, a gap of 30 DRS between 1st and 2nd at seasons end has only happened twice. There you have it. I guess I should amend my original observation from them being elite to being THE best defensive group in baseball.