Los Angeles Dodgers Players Just Now Finding Their Strides
There's not much to be proud of if you're a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers these days (except for Yasiel Puig, of course), but several of the team's key players have started to turn around their games in June after poor starts to the season.
With a record of 29-39, the Dodgers are well behind the four other teams in the division. The San Francisco Giants are closest to Los Angeles, although their record of 34-35 is 5.5 games better.
A plethora of injuries up and down the lineup, as well as poor performances across the board have made the Dodgers one of the biggest disappointments of the 2013 season. Many experts chose the Dodgers to win the National League West, while others even predicted them to be the National League representatives in the World Series.
While unlikely, there's still a chance that Los Angeles can turn it around. It's only a matter of time before everybody is healthy, meaning that the team should be happy that the second-half is right around the corner.
The following players are fighting hard to keep their team in the hunt prior to the return of several injured stars, and their respective performances this month should be praised.
June Numbers: 1-1, 4.07 ERA, 24.1 IP, 18/10 SO/BB, 1.36 WHIP
Zack Greinke's June has been far from spectacular, but he's taken major strides after a horrible month of May. Last month, Greinke pitched just 13.1 innings over three starts with a 6.75 ERA.
He missed time after suffering a broken clavicle at the hands of San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, preventing him from making more starts. Greinke has since returned and shown that he's almost back to being the pitcher that signed a six-year, $159 million contract during the offseason.
A 4.07 ERA isn't great, but it's enough to keep most teams in games. If Greinke was pitching with his usual lineup behind him, there's no question he'd have a better record over four starts.
The only thing that's alarming is his 10 free passes. His career SO/BB ratio is 3.47, nearly two strikeouts better than the 1.8 clip he's currently posting in June.
Greinke is an ace, though, so his progression in June should be a good sign for Dodgers fans. When he's right, they'll boast one of the best one-two punches in the league.
June Numbers: .255/.283/.353, two 2B, one HR, five RBI
Andre Ethier's June numbers aren't that much better than his numbers from April or May, but Ethier's last six games have been impressive.
He's quietly on a six-game hitting streak, racking up 10 hits in that span. He has five RBI and has raised his season average from .236 to .249 during his streak.
Ethier's presence in the lineup is especially important with Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford injured. It'll be interesting to see how he factors into the equation once both return—manager Don Mattingly will have to get creative in trying to work Kemp, Crawford, Ethier and Yasiel Puig into the lineup.
His play the past week has certainly been a boost to a struggling lineup, even if the Dodgers have only gone 2-4 during his hot streak. If he keeps this up, then fans should expect the Dodgers to pick up some more wins.
June Numbers: 1.08 ERA, 8.1 IP, 12/0 SO/BB, .179 BAA
Kenley Jansen has been absolutely stellar in June, as the only blemish against him is a solo home run off the bat of Travis Snider of the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 15. He's allowed only five hits this month and is re-establishing himself as a key member of manager Don Mattingly's bullpen.
In May, Jansen was unreliable. He was 0-3 with a 4.97 ERA over 12.2 innings, striking out 22 and walking three. He allowed three home runs.
If nothing else, Jansen has always been good at limiting free passes. With just six walks and 49 strikeouts on the season, Jansen can always be relied upon to strike out a hitter in a tough spot.
Brandon League hasn't been the most reliable closer this season, but Jansen has done his best work this month getting the ball to him with the lead. He's been one of the best relievers in baseball this month.
June Numbers: 1-2, 2.65 ERA, 17.0 IP, 16/6 SO/BB
Stephen Fife made just one start in April, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings pitched. He received a no-decision, though he certainly pitched poorly enough to get the loss. After being placed on the disabled list and being recalled in June, Fife has stepped up.
Not much was expected of Fife entering the season as an emergency starter, but his 2.65 ERA is representative of how he has exceeded expectations.
Granted, Fife has gotten lucky in June. Opponents are hitting .313 against him, and his WHIP of 1.53 is underwhelming. As a contact pitcher, though, Fife has done pretty well.
Despite putting a ton of runners on, he's getting outs before he allows them to score. His starts may not be the most calming to watch, but the Dodgers should feel comfortable giving him the ball every fifth day.