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Dodgers Dugout: First-half report card

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts scores against the Seattle Mariners.
Mookie Betts is leading the way for the Dodgers.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and there are only 30 games left in the season.

It seems like only yesterday when the Dodgers began the season 2-2, leading some fans to start tearing out their hair, gnash their teeth and put on sackcloth and ashes.

Since then, the Dodgers have gone 20-6 and have the best record in baseball. Let’s see where they rank in the majors in various categories (through Sunday’s games):

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Run Differential (+79): First
Runs per game (5.70): First
Home runs (59): First
Walks (107): Eighth
Strikeouts (224): 19th most
Batting average (.250): 11th
On-base percentage (.330): Eighth
Slugging percentage (.474): Third
Average with runners in scoring position (.300): First
with two out and RISP (.321): First
OPS+ (119): Fourth
LOB (188): 13th
ERA (2.65): First
Home runs allowed (34): Tied for 10th fewest
Walks allowed (81): Tied for seventh fewest
Strikeouts (257): Seventh
Starters’ ERA (3.32): Second
Relievers’ ERA (1.82): First

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So as you can see, the Dodgers have been mostly dominant. Only four players have a below-average OPS+. Max Muncy (99), Kiké Hernandez (91), Austin Barnes (83) and Joc Pederson (83). Yes, Cody Bellinger, despite his horrible start, is now exactly at league average (100) since hitting .314/.429/.857 in his last 10 games, with six homers in that span.

The only pitchers who have been below average this season are Ross Stripling (ERA+ of 80), Dennis Santana (82) and Alex Wood (53).

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We’ve talked in the past about how a reliever’s ERA can be misleading. For example. If a reliever comes in with the bases loaded and two out, gives up a bases-clearing double and then gets the final out, his ERA is 0.00, but did he really do his job? No. It’s better to use ERA in tandem with Inherited Runners who Scored % to really see who is effective. If a reliever comes in with the bases loaded and allows two of those runners to score, his IRS% is a horrible 66.7%. So how are the Dodgers doing there? The major league average for IRS% this season is 31%. Here are how the Dodgers relievers are doing:

Scott Alexander, 20% (1 of 5 have scored)
Caleb Ferguson, 16.7% (1 of 6)
Dylan Floro, 33.3% (3 of 9)
Brusdar Graterol, 0% (0 of 3)
Kenley Jansen, 0% (0 of 6)
Joe Kelly, 100% (1 of 1)
Adam Kolarek, 25% (2 of 8)
Jake McGee, 0% (0 of 3)
Dennis Santana, 0% (0 of 5)
Blake Treinen, 20% (1 of 5)

Pedro Baez and Victor Gonzalez have not come into a game with a runner on base this season.

So, overall, there’s really only one grade to give this team in the first half: A. It’s not a perfect team by any means, but if you are spending a lot of time criticizing the team this season, then you are the type that looks at the Sistine Chapel ceiling and complains about the cracks around the corners rather than the beautiful painting in the middle.

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Who’s in the playoffs?

Remember, this season 16 teams make the postseason, eight in each league. The three division winners, the three second-place teams and the remaining two teams with the best record make the playoffs in each league. They are seeded as follows: 1-3 (Division winners in order of best record; 4-6 (second-place teams in order of best record; 7-8 (remaining two teams in order of best record). No. 1 will play No. 8 in the first round, No. 2 vs. No. 7, etc. First round is best of three, with all three games played at the home stadium of the team with the better seeding. As of Monday, here’s the NL seedings:

1. Dodgers, 22-8
2. Chicago Cubs, 18-10
3. Atlanta, 16-12
4. San Diego, 18-12
5. St. Louis, 10-8
6. Miami, 12-11
7. Colorado, 14-15
8. San Francisco, 14-16

Every team in the NL except Pittsburgh is within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record (if applicable). The next tiebreaker is intra-division record. The next is record in the final 20 division games (plus one until the tie is broken).

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Your first Dodgers memory

I have thousands of responses, so if I don’t get to yours right away, don’t worry, I will eventually. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it may run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. And remember, it’s first Dodgers memory, not favorite Dodgers memory. Thanks.

Mas Imai: My very first exposure to Dodgers was in the Fall of 1956. The Dodgers came to Japan to play, then my favorite baseball team, the Tokyo Giants. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to a Dodgers vs. Tokyo Giants game. This perhaps because my half brother was invited to try out for the Giants and made some connections with the Giants. It was my first MLB experience and I was 8. I became a Dodgers fan instantly. God had it that my family move from Tokyo to L.A. in 1957. The year the Dodgers decided to move to L.A. I’ve been a diehard Dodgers fan ever since 1956.

Bob Kunders of Columbia City, Ore.: During the summer of 1955, as an 8-year-old, I had really taken a liking to the grand old game of baseball. TV’s were not common in homes yet, and if you did have one, you had to imagine the color of uniforms as there was no such thing as a color TV. One Saturday (had to have been a Saturday as that was the only day that games were broadcast), we were visiting friends who had a TV and a game featuring the Brooklyn Dodgers - AKA, “Brooklyn Bums.” My first time ever to see a game. At that age and time, I had yet to pick a favorite team or “My hero”. I’d just started playing the game with neighbor boys but knew nothing about the pros. Well, after watching that game, both of those matters were determined for life. Sorry to say I can’t remember the opponent, but I fell in love with the Dodgers as they won the game on a “walkoff” home run by none other than Duke Snider, my new lifetime hero. My den is full of Dodger memorabilia accumulated over these many years, with my favorite item being a Dodger cap autographed by “The Duke”.

In the spring of 2005, I noticed on the internet that the Dodgers were holding a pre/post game celebration during the season honoring the 1955 Dodgers on the 50th anniversary of their first World Series title. Players from that team still living were being recognized. Being an Oregonian, I had not been able to attend many games, but that day I heard of this celebration I immediately ordered tickets for my wife and I to attend. And what a thrill that turned out to be. Before the game, those 55 Dodgers gathered proudly on and around the mound and were recognized for their accomplishments! Sadness for me was that my Duke’s health was failing so he had to be seated during this time. However major tears filled my eyes when Duke was introduced and my No. 2 favorite Dodger of all time, Sandy Koufax, walked over to Duke’s chair and helped him stand for his ovation. I’ll cherish that memory for life.

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Jonathan Marmor: In 1966, we moved to Southern California from a small town in New Mexico because my dad was hired on the faculty at brand new Cal State Dominguez Hills. I was a fifth-grader at my new school, Beryl Heights Elementary in Redondo Beach, and one October day, our teacher walked in with a stern expression on her face. We immediately quieted down. After she made us promise that we would not say a peep to anyone, she stepped back into the hallway and wheeled in one of those tall TV carts with a television on it. She plugged it in and let us watch Game 2 of the Dodgers-Orioles World Series. I became a big Dodger fan right then and there, even though center-fielder Willie Davis made three errors in that 6-0 loss.

These names look familiar

What players on the 2019 Dodgers are doing this season with other teams (through Sunday’s games):

Travis d’Arnaud, Atlanta, .333/.357/.591, 146 OPS+

Yimi Garcia, Miami, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.2 IP (On 10-day IL)

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Jedd Gyorko, Milwaukee, .219/.306/.531, 120 OPS+

Rich Hill, Minnesota, 1-1, 4.70 ERA

Kenta Maeda, Minnesota, 3-0, 2.27 ERA

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto, 2-1, 3.19 ERA

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Casey Sadler, Chicago Cubs, 0-0, 4.32 ERA

Alex Verdugo, Boston, .298/.371/.543, 141 OPS+

Up next

Tuesday, Dodgers (Julio Urias*) at San Francisco (Johnny Cueto), 6:45 p.m., SportsNet LA, FS1, AM 570

Wednesday, Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw*) at San Francisco (Kevin Gausman), 6:45 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

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Thursday, Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at San Francisco (Logan Webb), 5 p.m., SportsNet LA, AM 570

*-Left-handed

And finally

Former Dodger Kenta Maeda carries a no-hitter into the ninth inning with Minnesota. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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