LOS ANGELES — Beginning the season 8-8 is not what the Dodgers had in mind to follow their 111 wins in 2022. There have been issues throughout the team; some that were expected to be holes, and some that have been surprising. It could be worse, but the Dodgers have improvements to make to get back to their dominant ways.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has flat-out struggled through their first 16 games. Their 4.30 ERA in the seventh inning or later ranks in the bottom third of the league. Additionally, their eight home runs allowed in the seventh or later is tied for second worst in baseball.
Only two relievers on the team have an ERA below 4.00 in the early going. Caleb Ferguson has a 2.84 ERA through seven appearances, and Shelby Miller has yet to allow an earned run in six games despite issuing six walks. Everyone else in the bullpen has posted ERAs ranging from 4.05 to 8.64.
Los Angeles has played six games that qualify as late/close. In those situations, they have allowed their opponents to bat .346 against them, which is worst in all of baseball. A bullpen that can hold up through close games is essential to being a great team, which showed when the Dodgers had arguably the best bullpen in the league last year.
The back end of the Dodgers’ rotation has not done well so far in the year. Spring training injuries to Tony Gonsolin and Ryan Pepiot have not helped, but the depth has not stepped up as a whole. Noah Syndergaard and Michael Grove have been the #4 and #5 starters, both posting ERAs above 5.00.
While Syndergaard and Grove’s last starts both showed improvement, their numbers have still not gotten the job done thus far. Pitching depth has been a key element of why the Dodgers have been so good in recent years, making this a concerning hole. Adding to the uneasiness of the rotation depth, top pitching prospect Gavin Stone has struggled to open the year in Triple-A.
Both Gonsolin and Pepiot are likely within weeks of returning. Their return, especially Gonsolin’s, will be important in getting the Dodgers back on track. If Los Angeles wants to continue giving Syndergaard starts because of his $13 million price tag, Pepiot and Grove might head to Triple-A until later in the year. Either way, the final two spots in the rotation will need to improve.
The Dodgers offense has scored two runs or fewer more than a third of the team’s games this year, losing five of those six. The only win came on David Peralta’s walk-off single Saturday, when the Dodgers were shut out until the ninth inning. That inconsistent run scoring forces the pitching staff to be impeccable to get a win.
“I feel like we haven’t got going. When we pitch we don’t hit. When we hit we don’t pitch,” Freddie Freeman said after the Dodgers’ Sunday loss to the Cubs.
More consistent run production starts with the leaders of the team. Veterans Miguel Rojas and Austin Barnes have struggled mightily so far, and other hitters have not looked like themselves. A couple games with run explosions have the Dodgers still tied for fifth in runs per game, but they need to spread out the production more evenly for that to translate to wins.
Los Angeles will host the Mets for a three game set to start this week. New York will not be an easy opponent to figure it out against as they are 10-6 so far this season. After that series concludes, the Dodgers will go to Chicago for a four game series as they look for revenge against the Cubs.
Dave Roberts’ squad is currently second in the NL West, a game behind the D-backs that they’ve lost five games to already. Improvements will have to be made to get back to the top spot in the division.