There’s a turnaround within the Dodgers’ current turnaround, and clearly it’s not coincidental.
At the midpoint of their 2014 season, the Dodgers are two games back of the Once They Were Giants in the National League West. The Dodgers have made up 7 1/2 games in the standings in their past 17 games.
That’s in large part to the Giants losing 12 of their last 16 and the Dodgers having won 10 of their last 13.
But there is a common thread to the Dodgers’ recent turnaround that goes beyond great starting pitching -- they are suddenly playing excellent defense.
Think that’s a bit hyperbolic? Best think again.
The Dodgers were one the worst defensive teams in baseball through nearly the first two months of the season, but for the last month they have been one of its best.
“We’ve been happier with it,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “Teams are having to beat us. We’re not giving them extra outs.”
When you have a rotation that may be the best in baseball, that makes all the difference.
In the Dodgers’ first 50 games this season, they committed 42 errors (27th in the majors), had a .978 fielding percentage (28th ) and had given up 30 unearned runs. They were hard to watch.
In their last 31 games they’ve made eight errors (tied for first), have a .994 fielding percentage (second) and have allowed two unearned runs. Their overall fielding percentage has jumped to .984 (15th). Not so hard to watch.
“The defense has definitely picked up,” said Matt Kemp. “I think at the beginning of the year, our defense probably wasn’t as good as it should have been. But you keep working at it and it gets better and better.”
Kemp, of course, was moved from center to left, with Andre Ethier sliding over to center, to help solidify the outfield defense. Dee Gordon has continued to improve as a second baseman. And most recently, Miguel Rojas seems to be making a highlight play a night, whether he’s at short, second or third.
“Tonight was about defense,” Beckett said.
More and more it is, which would have been unthinkable in the middle of May. If it continues, so should their winning ways.