Unsung Players – Not Stars – Carrying Dodgers

The Dodgers are known for their flashy stars, but through the season’s first half, it’s been the team’s role players who have been their best performers. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers are embarking on the second half of their schedule with a 47-38 record through Tuesday’s action and currently sit four games above the rival San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League West. The Dodgers are also just a game and a half away from matching their biggest lead in the division, which they set back on May 12 when they had a 5 1/2 game advantage.

When looking at the reasons for their first-half success, the results can be surprising or scary (if you’re not a Dodgers fan); it’s been the role players rather than the stars that have played a key role in pushing LA into this position.

While Clayton Kershaw is the one guy that everyone thinks about when talking about Dodger pitching, he hasn’t had his best stuff through the first half of the season. Through 17 starts, he is a very un-Kershaw-like 5-6 and carries a 3.08 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and 39 runs surrendered in 114 innings pitched.

But the pitcher who has been the true ace for LA through the first half has been Zack Greinke. He’ll be making his third career appearance at next week’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati and has certainly been deserving of the honor. In 17 starts, he has put together a record of 7-2 with a stellar 1.48 ERA and 0.89 WHIP and just 19 earned runs allowed in 115 1/3 innings pitched.

September 23, 2014 - Los Angeles Dodgers Starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) [3081] pitches in the top of the 1st inning during the Los Angeles Dodgers game versus the San Francisco Giants at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. Dodgers defeated Giants 4-2.

Another starter who has picked up Kershaw and the rest of the starting rotation has been Brett Anderson. The Texas native has started 16 games for the Dodgers and has recorded five wins, while posting only a slighly higher ERA than Kershaw (3.12) along with a 1.31 WHIP and fewer earned runs given up than Kershaw (35) in 101 innings pitched. Even after taking the loss last night, Anderson has given the Dodgers surprisingly good outings for the better part of the season.

There’s also been surprises in the outfield. Yasiel Puig is having a relatively quiet season for his standards. The slugger has hit .283 with just three home runs, 10 RBI and 39 hits in 138 at-bats as he’s been limited to just 38 games because of injury. Fellow outfielder Carl Crawford is currently on the 60-day DL after playing in just 15 games this season.

Instead, Justin Turner and Andre Ethier have both picked up the slack in the outfield. Turner has appeared in 74 games and has hit .314 with 11 home runs, 38 RBI and 65 hits in 207 at-bats. Ethier, who was projected to be in a bench role back in spring training, has remained a starting lineup mainstay because of the injuries to the lineup and he’s fared well, as he has hit .276 with 10 home runs, 29 RBI and 28 walks in 228 at-bats.

Highly touted outfield prospect Joc Pederson has not disappointed in what is his first full season with the big club. Through Tuesday, he trails only first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in runs scored (45), is tied for third on the team in hits (65), leads the team in home runs (20), is second in RBI (39) and leads the team in walks (56).

May 02 2015: Los Angeles Dodgers Center field Joc Pederson (31) [8776] hits a home run during the game between the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA.

While closer Kenley Jansen is having another solid season of locking up games for the Dodgers, the rest of the bullpen has had trouble getting outs at time, and other times has had to contend with injuries. But one bright spot out of the pen has been J.P. Howell. The native of Modesto, California has made 33 appearances for LA and has compiled a 4-1 record and one save along with an almost flawless ERA of 0.36 and a 1.13 WHIP.

In order for any Major League team to be successful over the course of a 162-game season, a team needs contributions from all corners of the clubhouse. So far, the role players and bench have carried LA to first place as they approach next week’s All-Star break.

Needless to say, the Dodgers are a good team just when their star players are performing well. If and when LA can get their stars rolling, the team would truly be running on all cylinders and at that point, they should be a cause for concern for the rest of the division and quite possibly the rest of the National League.

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