How the Dodgers Pulled off MLB's Best 50-Game Run Since the Big Red Machine

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How the Dodgers Pulled off MLB's Best 50-Game Run Since the Big Red Machine
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

On June 21, the Los Angeles Dodgers were at the lowest of lows.

They had just fallen to the San Diego Padres (5-2), had lost nine of their last 12 and were in last place, 9.5 games back in the NL West.

Then, something happened.

Since then, they've gone 38-8, have an overall record of 68-50 and sit 7.5 games up in the NL West.

For a team that has dealt with injuries to Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley (among others), the Dodgers have been amazing.

But what caused the sudden turnaround?

 

Yasiel Puig

Puig made his official debut on June 3 and took the league by storm.

We saw what he could do in spring training when he batted .517 with three home runs and 11 RBI. Then when he got called up, he hit .500 with four home runs and 10 RBI in his first week. It was a week-long debut unlike any other many of us had ever seen.

While there have been various incidents with the rookie (the brawl in Arizona and the shunning of Luis Gonzalez), there's no doubt Puig-Mania is alive in Los Angeles.

Puig has cooled down (just a little), batting .371 with 11 home runs and 27 RBI for the year.

All in all, he's brought a ton of energy into the Dodgers lineup, which was something that was needed.

 

The Plan

With the new ownership group, there was a plan to mimic the New York Yankees and spend, spend, spend.

The Dodgers traded for Beckett, Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto last year, taking on $58.25 million in salary just in 2013. There was the trade for Hanley Ramirez last year as well, adding another $15.5 million in salary for this year.

They also brought in Zack Greinke and rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu for the rotation. At the beginning of the season, the team payroll sat at $220 million.

All of those players have been able to contribute in some form or fashion.

Gonzalez has provided 16 home runs and 75 RBI, while Crawford has done well, batting .295. Greinke and Ryu have contributed 21 wins and 211 strikeouts as well.

Although he started the season on the disabled list, Ramirez has been tearing it up, batting .359 and showing shades of the old Han-Ram. 

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Ironically, Ramirez started hitting the ball well on June 19, having batted .379 with 10 home runs and 34 RBI since then.

 

Josh Beckett on the DL

How has Beckett contributed? He's stayed on the disabled list.

Beckett has long been considered a clubhouse cancer. He was at the center of the beer-and-chicken fiasco in Boston, and (according to Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sports) then-Marlins manager Jack McKeon had to lock the clubhouse door in 2003 to keep Beckett out of it during games.

The pitcher seems to have never had an interest in the game when he's not playing.

I find it ironic that the Dodgers have had a lot of success without Beckett. Coincidence?

 

Conclusion

So many things have gone right for the Dodgers, but the biggest charge into the team came from Puig.

Without his energy and passion, there's no way the Dodgers would be in first place right now.

He is a major reason why the Dodgers didn't fold in early June and why manager Don Mattingly still has a job.

There's no doubt the other players contributed a lot as well, but if I could point to the biggest factor, there are none bigger than Puig.

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