Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and it’s time for some random thoughts after 12 games in the season.
—Just when everyone begins to love Andrew Heaney, he goes on the IL with a sore left shoulder. It is not expected to keep him out long. Tyler Anderson will replace him in the rotation.
—Who is wearing No. 35 for the Dodgers and what has he done with Cody Bellinger? This new guy is hitting .279/.354/.535 with six extra-base hits and an OPS+ of 156. “Every time he steps in the box, he’s conducting a professional at-bat,” said manager Dave Roberts. “He’s putting the barrel on the ball and being more like what we expect of Cody. For him to understand game situations, feel good at the plate, seeing the baseball … that’s where we want to keep him. … I really believe he can be a better hitter now going forward than in his MVP year. There was a lot of slug in there that carried the MVP. … I think there’s a really good opportunity for him to be an even more well-rounded hitter.”
—A renewed Bellinger would go a long way to getting the Dodgers back in the World Series.
Enjoying this newsletter?
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Los Angeles Times subscriber.
—Speaking of hitters, let’s check the OPS+ of the 12 Dodgers who have batted this season. Remember, OPS+ compares against league averages. If you have an OPS+ of 100, that means you are a league average hitter. An OPS+ of 125 means you are 25% better than average. An OPS+ of 75 means you are 25% worse than average.
Austin Barnes, 229 (Barnes is tied for the team lead in homers)
Freddie Freeman, 167 (the guy Barnes is tied with)
Gavin Lux 158
Cody Bellinger 156
Chris Taylor 131
Trea Turner, 116
Edwin Rios, 111
Will Smith, 110
Justin Turner, 70
Max Muncy, 66
Mookie Betts 51
Hanser Alberto, 30
Of course, it’s only 12 games, so take all this with a grain of salt. If Alberto goes three for four next game, he’ll be above average.
—The concerns at the moment are Betts, Justin Turner and Muncy. I don’t really worry about Betts, as he’s too good and too young not to be fine. Muncy is coming off a bad elbow injury, so it might take some time to truly find his strike. He’s still drawing walks and has power.
No, the concern for me is Justin Turner. He is 10 for 44 with two doubles, hitting .227/.306/.273. Last season, he hit .241/.321/.434 in the second half of the season. It’s certainly not an overwhelming concern. It’s only 12 games, and he is a notoriously slow starter, especially power wise (he has only nine home runs in 567 April at-bats). It’s just something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
—The pitching has been tremendous. When your worst starting pitcher after 12 games is Walker Buehler, then you know you really have something. And the bullpen has been lights out for the most part.
—Blake Treinen didn’t pitch in the Atlanta series because of a sore elbow. He is expected back tonight against San Diego. If they have to put him on the IL before the game, then, uh oh.
—I watched the Apple TV+ “telecast” of last Friday’s game. A note to Apple: If you want to broadcast baseball, you might want to hire some announcers who know something about baseball. It was Jackie Robinson Night, and they seemed to have no clue as to who Jackie Robinson was. Apple products were promoted during the game. The main play-by-play announcer thought every fly ball was going to be a home run. And those are the nicest things I can say about them. It was truly an embarrassment.
—By the way, if you are at a game and have a hard time telling if a fly ball is going to be a home run, remember the trick Vin Scully taught all of us: Watch the outfielder, not the ball. You can tell by his movements where the ball is going. When I was a kid, I remember sitting in the reserved level and getting excited when I thought a fly ball was a home run, only to watch Bill Russell settle under it for the out. Since learning Vin’s lesson, I’ve never been fooled.
—I received more unsolicited reader email about the Apple TV+ broadcast than I have in the history of this newsletter. They were truly terrible. Luckily, the Dodgers only appear one more time there, in June against the Cleveland Guardians.
—Kenley Jansen came into the game Tuesday night to get the save for Atlanta and got booed. To me, that was the wrong move. He deserved an ovation when he came in, and then wish for him to blow the lead. I mean, if Joc Pederson and other Dodgers can get standing ovations when they come back, Jansen deserved at least that much respect.
—Trevor Bauer‘s paid administrative leave has been extended until April 29. Keep in mind, the leave can’t be extended unless the players’ union, which represents Bauer, agrees to it, so it’s not like MLB is unilaterally doing this on their own. He is still expected to receive a suspension of some sort. To be determined is whether the games he has already missed while on leave will count toward that suspension. And for those who ask me how he can be suspended even though he wasn’t charged with a crime, it’s all part of the domestic abuse policy the league and players’ union negotiated. Think of it like this: I could tweet out “The Los Angeles Times is the worst place to work in history and I believe they are secretly financing an alien invasion.” It would not be a crime to tweet that. But The Times could certainly suspend me or fire me for that. It’s no different here. We’re just going to have to wait and see how all these things play out.
—Just when they needed it most, Tony Gonsolin pitched one of the best games of his career Wednesday.
—Let’s take a look at those NL West standings:
Colorado, 8-4, 1 GB
San Diego, 9-5, 1 GB
San Francisco, 8-5, 1.5 GB
Arizona, 5-8, 4.5 GB
Last season was stressful enough with just the Giants battling the Dodgers for first. If the Rockies and Padres join that group, I may have to invest in a home defibrillator.
Obscure stat of the week
Does Clayton Kershaw pitch better when Austin Barnes is his catcher compared to Will Smith? Let’s take a look. In his 15 seasons with the Dodgers, Kershaw has had 13 batterymates. Here is his career ERA with each one:
Tim Federowicz (21 IP), 1.71 ERA
Ramon Hernandez (15), 1.80
AJ Ellis (829), 1.97
Rod Barajas (177.2), 2.08
Yasmani Grandal (403.2), 2.23
Brad Ausmus (54.2), 2.30
Drew Butera (34), 2.38
Dioner Navarro (87.2), 2.77
Austin Barnes (349.1), 2.83
Russell Martin (362), 3.33
Will Smith (96.2), 3.63
Danny Ardoin (22.1), 4.84
Matt Treanor (13.2), 5.93
Tonight: Dodgers (*Julio Urias) at San Diego (Nick Martinez), 6:30 pm, Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Saturday: Dodgers (*Tyler Anderson) at San Diego (Yu Darvish), 5:30 pm, Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Sunday: Dodgers (*Clayton Kershaw) at San Diego (*Sean Manaea), 1 pm, Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Stories you might have missed
Mookie Betts’ slump worrisome amid the Dodgers besting Braves: Five takeaways
Plaschke: It’s only 4/20, but Cody Bellinger has rediscovered some of his old slugging highs
Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw has a pitching doppelganger in single A
Hernández: Clayton Kershaw’s competitive fire rages even as Dodger fans show him love
Ross Porter visits with Ron Cey. Watch and listen here.
Until next time…
Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.