6 Los Angeles Dodgers Due for Second-Half Breakouts
The Los Angeles Dodgers spent most of the first half of the MLB season leading the National League West, but they will need big second-half performances from many of their players in order to make the playoffs.
When Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier went down with injuries, the Dodgers began to struggle. Any team would have a hard time winning games after losing their best two offensive players, so it was not a shock to see them lose a few games.
They lost 15 of their final 20 games before the All-Star break, and they were shut out six times during that stretch.
After losing two of three at home to San Diego to start the second half, the Dodgers are looking for someone to step up.
Los Angeles is only one-and-a-half games back, so they are right in the middle of things.
Kemp and Ethier are back in the lineup, but they will need other players to contribute if they hope to make a run at the postseason.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com as of 7/15*
Stats: .247 batting average/.309 OBP, 2 home runs/24 RBI
Out of everyone in this lineup, James Loney has the best chance to have a breakout second half.
He is in the middle of the worst season of his career, so he has the ability to improve. If he gets going, the Dodgers will have a great middle of the lineup.
Loney is a career .284 hitter and averages 10 home runs with 63 RBI per season. In 2008 and 2009, he had back-to-back seasons with 13 home runs and 90 RBI.
He has normally been consistent throughout his career, so this season came out of nowhere.
Los Angeles can expect Loney to get his average up to around .280, and it would be much needed for an offense that struggles to score runs when Kemp or Ethier struggles.
With Kemp and Ethier back in the lineup, there will be more chances for Loney to drive in runs.
Stats: .229/.280, 1 HR/17 RBI
Although he will miss a few more weeks, Dee Gordon will be the key for the Dodgers during the second half of the season.
Currently on the disabled list with a thumb injury, the Dodgers will be waiting for him to return.
After hitting above .300 in limited time in the majors last season, he has struggled to hit for a high average this year. The team can be patient with the 24-year-old shortstop because he has great talent.
Gordon has great speed and is a valuable part of this lineup. With 30 stolen bases, he can get into scoring position for the heart of the lineup.
His 62 strikeouts are a concern because of his speed. When he begins to put the ball in play, his average will rise because he can beat out routine ground balls.
It's unclear if he will be able to hit for a high average throughout a full season, but he should be well rested when he comes off the disabled list.
He will bring his average up during the final two months of the season, and he will give the Dodgers a boost at the top of the order.
Stats: .253/.351, 2 HR/21 RBI
In the past six weeks, he is only hitting .217. The 38-year-old outfielder will be key for the Dodgers if they hope to make a run in the division.
He has yet to hit a home run at Dodger Stadium this year, but he will need to improve his average. He is no longer a threat to hit around .300 with power, but he can get his average up to around .275 and help his RBI total.
Abreu has an on-base percentage of nearly 100 points higher than his batting average, which makes him important to the team.
This seems like a reach for a breakout final half of the season only because of his age. He may very well be playing the final season of his career, so he will not be expected to carry the team.
With the majority of their remaining games being played in big ballparks, Abreu's home run total probably will not jump much. However, he will need to adjust and hit for average if he wants to continue to get playing time.
Stats: .251/.291, 3 HR/28 RBI
A hamstring injury kept Rivera out of the lineup for almost a month earlier this season, so there is reason to be optimistic.
When he returned from the injury in June, he hit .278 for the entire month. If he can stay healthy for the rest of the season, his average should be to get up to the .270 mark and help drive in Kemp and Ethier.
The 34-year-old right fielder does not strike out much, so he will be able to get his fair share of hits as long as he continues to make contact.
He can get his home runs in the double digits in the final two months, and he will see his numbers improve accordingly.
The Dodgers do a nice job of giving him a day off every week, so the hamstring injury should not be a concern for Rivera.
Stats: 4-9, 4.30 ERA, 100 strikeouts
Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley is also having the worst season of his career. He was scratched from his last start with an elbow injury, so he may end up going on the disabled list.
When healthy, Billingsley is a good pitcher and is normally good for around 200 innings per season. His earned run average is at a career high, which is saying something.
The rest of his numbers are not much different than past seasons, so he is not pitching horribly this year. He has had a few bad starts, but he has also been the victim of little run support.
If he is able to pitch in the second half, he is poised for a strong finish. His 3.73 career ERA is a reason to expect big things from him for the rest of the season.
Billingsley was on his usual pace for about the same number of innings and strikeouts. He has lost since Kemp went on the disabled list for the first time this season. Billingsley has lost nine of his 11 decisions during the past two months, including all three when Ethier was out.
With both offensive stars in the lineup now, Billingsley should get more run support and see his numbers improve.
Stats: 6-5, 3.53 ERA, 82 strikeouts
After leaving Cincinnati after the 2010 season, Aaron Harang has turned his career back around.
Playing in PETCO Park and Dodger Stadium has definitely helped him considering he used to pitch in Great American Ball Park.
Chris Capuano and Clayton Kershaw have been phenomenal in 2012, and Billingsley has pitched well.
Harang is also known for piling up the innings, so the Dodgers should be able to keep the bullpen rested.
In the past, he was normally good with control. However, his 45 walks issued will easily surpass his career high of 58 he had last season. As the team's No. 4 starter, he needs to continue his good start to the season.
The Dodgers make trips to Colorado and Cincinnati later this year, but those are the only games in which they play in hitter-friendly stadiums.
By pitching in pitcher-friendly parks, Harang should continue to pitch well. Outside of April, his ERA is below 3.00. He continues to pitch deep into games, and he manages to rack up the quality starts.
With one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, Los Angeles will need a huge second half out of Harang if they hope to overtake the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.