The Dodgers are 32-20. That translates to a 100-win pace, even if the team is still in second place in the National League West. After winning 10 times in 12 games, the Dodgers have cut Colorado’s division lead to a half-game. The Rockies have not fallen off, but the Dodgers appear to be hitting their stride. They swept the Cubs at Dodger Stadium, went 8-2 on the homestand and captured a series opener Monday in St. Louis.
Here are the pitching matchups for the rest of the week at Busch Stadium:
Tuesday: RHP Kenta Maeda (4-2, 5.08 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (2-2, 3.66 ERA)
Wednesday: TBD (likely LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu [2-5, 4.28]) vs. RHP Carlos Martinez (3-4, 3.32 ERA)
Thursday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-1, 3.28 ERA) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (5-3, 4.20 ERA)
As always, though, there is plenty to discuss. You can send me questions on Twitter @McCulloughTimes. Let’s do this.
Are the Dodgers good?— MLB Insider Dinger (@atf13atf) May 29, 2017
Yes. Especially at baseball.
Where do you view the Dodgers amongst the best teams in baseball?— Ben Haber (@HaberBen) May 29, 2017
I was going to add the caveat of “No one asked me,” but since you literally asked: I think the Dodgers are the best team in the National League. The Nationals’ bullpen is too shaky, the Rockies’ entire pitching staff is still unproven and the Cubs continue to sleepwalk through the year. The Cubs have the highest ceiling, but they are floating beneath it these days. That could change, of course. But for now, I see the Dodgers as the class of the senior circuit.
The Dodgers biggest need at/before the trade deadline has to be a legit backend bullpen guy, right?— Young Cheese (@Cream_cheezin) May 27, 2017
Blame Alex Wood for being too good.
When this season began, more than a few members of the organization saw Wood as a high-leverage reliever, a left-handed portion of the bridge to Kenley Jansen. But with Wood pitching like an All-Star starter, it won’t be easy to shift him back into relief (as long as he returns from the disabled list next week without incident and avoids further injury). So the Dodgers should be in the market for another left-handed reliever. Padres pitcher Brad Hand makes sense.
It doesn’t feel like a necessity, though. The Dodgers have the best bullpen in the National League. If Andrew Miller were on the market, it might make sense to give up valuable assets. But a pitcher like that likely won’t be available.
A more intriguing question is whether the Dodgers will pursue outfield help. There should be several talented right-handed hitters on the market. Three names come immediately to mind:
1. Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain finished third in the American League MVP voting in 2015 but was sidetracked by injuries last season and is currently caught in a horrific slump. With pitcher Danny Duffy out for possibly two months and the Royals mired in last place, the team is expected to hold a fire sale for their impending free agents. The price on Cain may drop as his slugging percentage approaches .350.
2. The Blue Jays also reside in last place in their division. Their chances may not be as dire as Kansas City, but a losing record is a losing record is a losing record. And Jose Bautista will be a free agent after this season. Bautista slumped in April, but he looks like himself in May: eight homers, six doubles, hitting .312/.414/.634. A motivated Bautista is a terrifying thing for an opposing pitcher to face. It would behoove the Dodgers for vice president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos to call his old club.
3. And then there is Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez. He missed six weeks with a sprained ligament in his foot, but he has torched opposing pitchers since being activated. In 17 games, Martinez has hit eight homers with a 1.202 OPS. Like Bautista and Cain, he will be a free agent after this season.
These hitters share more commonalities besides batting right-handed. They all will be free agents. Unlike Ryan Braun, who is still owed a boatload by Milwaukee, the Dodgers could make a short-term investment, rather than signing up for a lengthy stint. If Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson continue to struggle, it would make sense to pursue upgrades.
I’ll put it this way. When Joc Pederson returns from the disabled list, he may need to practice reading balls in right field.
I’ve been writing this for a while now: Most of the scouts I talk to see Yasiel Puig as a fourth outfielder. There were 68 outfielders who qualified for the batting title, heading into Tuesday. Puig ranked 48th in on-base plus slugging percentage and 50th in weighted on-base average. His swing remains compromised by mechanical glitches, and his approach has been inconsistent.
Puig stopped hitting fastballs in 2016. The problem has gotten worse this year. According to FanGraphs, Puig was worth 9.7 runs below average against fastballs heading into Tuesday. Among the 177 hitters who qualified for the batting title, Puig ranked 176th. That is somewhat astounding, given how Puig once feasted on fastballs.
The Dodgers decided to move on from Puig last summer. Before they acquired Josh Reddick, the team informed him that he would either be traded at the Aug. 1 deadline or sent to the minors. No deal came about. Puig went to Oklahoma City, took his penance and came back to hit left-handed pitchers pretty well. In a decision that surprised me, the team decided to install him as the starting right fielder this past spring. Puig has not taken a step forward. He has hit nine home runs, but he’s been brutal against left-handed pitchers, with a .479 OPS.
Dave Roberts has built a meritocracy. If you hit, you play. When Pederson comes back, Roberts will have to solve the daily puzzle of how to keep his most productive players in the lineup. Puig has not always been one of them.
This question was sent before Wood was placed on the disabled list with inflammation of his SC joint, which connects the sternum to the clavicle. The answer should be relatively apparent now, but I can expand on it.
1. The point of the endeavor is to win the World Series. In order to win the World Series, the Dodgers want as many of their pitchers as possible to be healthy and performing well in October.
2. In order to keep their pitchers healthy and performing well, the Dodgers are trying to limit their innings and outings during the regular season. Wood underwent elbow surgery last summer after trying to pitch through soreness.
3. In his career, Wood has shown a vulnerability to hitters when they face him a third time. He allowed opposing hitters to post an .879 OPS against him in that scenario in 2016 and an .808 OPS in 2015. He has been much sharper in 2017 (.530 OPS), but that’s also because he’s not pitching much a third time through the order.
What would you do with Romo if you were Roberts?— Brett Wood (@brettmaverick63) May 28, 2017
Use him in lower-leverage situations. Roberts has started to re-integrate Sergio Romo into more important situations, like on Sunday and Monday, but the fear of damage must always be present.
What kind of food do they serve in the press box? Any dishes that you actually look forward to?— Andres Loera (@andresmloera) May 27, 2017
They serve all sorts of food. I cannot say for sure, exactly, what the various dishes are because I pack my lunch most days.
Hopefully in the offseason. The environment seems incredible.
That is definitely a good song. Here are five others I’ve liked this year:
1. “On Hold” by the xx
2. “Sky Turns Day Glo” by Bush
3. “After the Party” by the Menzingers
4. “June” by Tigers Jaw
5. “Arc of Bar” by Japandroids