Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2021
On Memorial Day weekend, the baseball season traditionally is one-third done, and the Dodgers are not where they want to be. So far during the 2021 season, the Dodgers have been a streaky team, and this will not allow them to repeat as world champions.
In the 2021 season, Major League Baseball has had a record number of injuries, and the Dodgers had not been exempted. When Cody Bellinger has played only six games for the Dodgers and hopefully Corey Seager might return at the All-Star break from a fractured hand, the Dodgers are in trouble. Their middle relief resembles a Triple-A bullpen, and this has caused many losses. Although the Dodgers will never use their countless injuries as an excuse for their subpar play, the injuries have affected every aspect of their play.
The Dodgers are in third place in the National League Western Division with 31 victories and 22 losses. The inconsistent play is troubling even though injuries have contributed to that. While Mookie Betts has not been on the IL, he must be playing with nagging injuries since he has not performed like himself. Defensively, he has still been remarkable even though he has played more center field than ever in Bellinger’s absence. However, offensively, he has not been good, swinging and missing at balls in the middle of the strike zone and having almost no power.
Most Dodgers are not having great offensive performances in 2021, but both Max Muncy and Chris Taylor have a great offensive season. Muncy leads the team in both home runs with thirteen and OPS (on-base plus slugging) with 1.005. Even when he did not have any protection in the lineup, Muncy took his walks and rarely chased a pitch out of the strike zone. Defensively, before the Dodgers obtained Albert Pujols, Muncy played Gold Glove-caliber first base, and now he is a super second base.
With Kiké Hernàndez going to the Boston Red Sox, Taylor is the only experienced utility fielder for the Dodgers. With all these injuries, Taylor has become more valuable than previously. Playing spectacular defense everywhere on the diamond, he has had a good offensive season since he has decreased his strikeouts. Many Dodger fans hope Taylor will continue his fantastic play so that he can make the first All-Star Game, which will be held in Colorado, of his career.
Acquiring the future Hall-of-Famer Pujols has improved the offense. Even before spring training began, the Dodgers needed another right-handed hitter to stop being susceptible to left-handed pitching. Team president Andrew Friedman could not find one that he wanted, but when the Anaheim Angels unceremoniously released Pujols, with their injuries, the Dodgers signed him. Even his presence in the lineup has improved the offense. Since becoming a Dodger, he has blasted three home runs and driven in many important runs.
Before this weekend in back-to-back games against the San Francisco Giants when both Julio Urìas and Clayton Kershaw had poor outings, the starting rotation has been excellent. Even when Dustin May underwent Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers had not had a game started by the bullpen that did not have a chance to win. Kershaw usually looks like he did in 2014 the last time he won the Cy Young Award. While Walker Buehler has been good, he has not hit his brilliance that he always demonstrated during the playoffs yet. Urìas has continued the dominance that he had during the 2020 World Series. So far this season, Trevor Bauer has proven once again Friedman is a wise general manager, and undoubtedly, Bauer is the ace of the Dodger starting rotation.
As the trading deadline approaches, Friedman needs to improve the Dodger bullpen. When Corey Knebel strained his lat and Jimmy Nelson had a fatigued shoulder, the Dodgers do not have experienced middle relievers. Luckily, the Dodger starters go into sixth or longer so that the team does not require middle relief. When the Dodgers need middle relief, they frequently lost the games.
Finding bullpen help is difficult since every contending team wants this. If Friedman can accomplish that and the Dodgers get some of their injured players back, the Dodgers should be able to return to the postseason.