The Los Angeles Dodgers are arguably the hottest team in Major League Baseball right now, as they have gone 37-8 in their last 45 games and been firing on all cylinders during this stretch since early June.
At the moment the team cannot lose and there is one question that gets pondered at this point especially since it’s nearing the middle of August. Will this success begin to dissipate or better yet are the Dodgers serious contenders for the World Series title?
Things began to turn around for the Dodgers on June 3, which is the exact date that phenom right-fielder Yasiel Puig got called up to the majors. He became the spark plug at a point which it was a necessity for the franchise and its fan base, as he began his time in the big leagues hovering around a .400 batting average and making tremendous throws from right field look routine. Currently, Puig has a .376 batting average, 11 home runs, and 26 runs batted in to his credit during his 60 games played.
It hasn’t been just Puig alone who has led the Dodgers. In the last two months, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, catcher A.J. Ellis, third baseman Juan Uribe and countless others have improved their play considerably. Another standout to add to that list is Andre Ethier, who has fit into his new role as the Dodgers’ center fielder nicely. During a postgame interview following a victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in June, Ethier told KCAL9 (Los Angeles) that it has been his dream to play centerfield in the majors. He has certainly justified manager Don Mattingly’s decision to move him to center, given Puig’s excellent play in right since his debut.
Offensively Los Angeles has filled their roles on offense tremendously and still there are two issues remaining.
First it’s the bullpen, particularly the performance of reliever Brandon League especially as closer. He has blown four saves in 17 opportunities and hasn’t gotten much better since getting removed from the role. Still with the offense it has been able to overcome his shakiness.
Additionally, despite Puig’s historic rookie season, he still has a tendency to be overaggressive on defense, as he has thrown to the wrong base and overran multiple balls over recent weeks. One of the major concerns about him when he originally got called up was his poor plate discipline and often he swung at pitches that were considerably out of the strike zone. Sometimes, his great plate coverage would bail him out, while at other times he would strike out a lot or hit routine ground outs. That habit has since been curbed and hopefully his defensive issues will become less prevalent with more time in the big leagues.
Those look like they are really the only concerns with the Dodgers at this moment and it does not appear as if they will slow down any time soon, especially since they have proven that they can withstand injuries as well as the fact that the team has a weak schedule the rest of the way. Two-time MLB All-Star and Gold Glove center fielder Matt Kemp has only played in 62 of the Dodgers’ 117 games this season, while shortstop Ramirez has missed multiple stretches of roughly around one week throughout the season, in addition to beginning his 2013 campaign late. As a result, he has only played in 55 games this year. Pertaining to their schedule, aside from series against the AL East leading Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles has an easy schedule for the rest of the regular season.
This current squad is a far cry from the one that began the season with a paltry 18-26 record and hovered around last place in the NL West. This Dodgers team has turned a corner and will definitely be a team to be reckoned with come the 2013 MLB Playoffs. If they continue their excellent play, this team could quite possibly become the first Dodgers team to win the World Series since the 1988. The 2013 version of the franchise definitely is something special and they may wind up being the one to break the current drought, win the Fall Classic, and forever be immortalized in the history books.