A Second Chance in the Second Half

The Dodgers are entering the second half of the season in last place, but I couldn't be happier. The NL West has a four game spread from top to bottom, the Dodgers have reloaded with new or healthy players and no team in baseball has more momentum.

Hanley Ramirez since the doubleheader with the Yankees in New York:
.477 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 1.407 OPS
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
The misery of the first 81 games climaxed one month ago. At the beginning of June, the Dodgers were the biggest joke in all of baseball. Pick a topic, and it was tragically funny: the money, the injuries, the lineup, the bullpen or the brawl.
 
One month ago...
23-31 (.426) Last place, 7.5 games back
5-5 last 10, 6-16 vs. NL West
 
Yasiel Puig was still in Chattanooga. Hanley Ramirez was finishing his second stay on the disabled list. A guy batting .116 who plays no position well was still getting a ton of playing time. A washed
up catcher was taking up a roster spot.

The inked-to-the-max in both tats and contract closer was stinking and an awful middle reliever was getting too many innings. Zack Greinke was slow returning to form, so there were really only two reliable starters.
 
One month later...
38-43 (.469) Last place, 4 games back
8-2 last 10, 14-23 vs. NL West

Puig will almost certainly be named the player of the month. Hanley has actually been hotter than Puig over the past two weeks. Luis Cruz improved to .127 before he was cut and Ramon Hernandez is long gone.

Brandon League (5.83 ERA) is no longer the closer and the Dodgers chose to eat $1.8-million rather than have Matt Guerrier (4.80) pitch to one more batter. Jose Dominguez made his debut in the last game of the first half and threw a fastball that hit 101 on the radar gun. Greinke has been doing better and Stephen Fife has emerged as a back end starter.

Jose Dominguez has a promising future, and so do the Dodgers.
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo

The counterbalance to the great Dodgers slump of the first half was the overall ineptitude of other teams in the NL West. Just look at the bolded records above, there really isn't much of an improvement in the Dodgers record so much as a tightening of the division. The improvement in their record against divisional rivals is modest, but it at least approaches competitive.

Sure, there are still some questions about this team. I worry about the infield defense and I'm still worried about Matt Kemp (.254 BA, 2 HR). Andre Ethier seems to be scraping by on singles, but his defense in center field was better than expected. Greinke could still do much better and somebody needs to claim the final spot in the rotation. And I worry about any team managed by Don Mattingly.

It's July 1st. The Dodgers are four games out of first place with a lineup featuring the two hottest hitters in baseball and a bullpen that's younger and throwing harder. Clayton Kershaw will open up the second half tomorrow night back in Colorado, where the Dodgers were on June 1st. Let the new season begin.
 
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The Dodgers practice pulling their hamstrings on the field before a recent game.
Dodgers / Jon SooHoo
 

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