The Dodgers are currently 19-26 and in the cellar of a mediocre National League West, therefore it's hard to be positive, yet some things have panned out better than expected. Going into the season I could've only dreamed about the following: Clayton Kershaw possibly improving, Carl Crawford posting all star numbers, Mark Ellis hitting at a .329 clip, praying for Nick Punto to get more playing time, Hyun-Jin Ryu becoming Mr. quality start and more.
Everything and anything is a story out here in Los Angeles, but none of the top notch journalists are dishing out kudos to guys like Punto, the "Ellis brothers", Ryu and the list goes on. Their gritty efforts haven't gone unnoticed on TrueBlueLA.com.
Without the role players stepping up, the Dodgers may already be waiving the white flag. Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson had a drastically different hollywood script for the first 45 games, but their ball club is only five games back in the loss column and six overall. Here's an overdue thanks to the guys who kept the Dodgers alive, as Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier decided to hibernate.
1. Clayton Kershaw
NBA writers have begun to take LeBron James' greatness for granted. MLB writers may elect to do the same with Clayton Kershaw. Regardless of the opponent, the Dodgers are heavy favorites every five days because Kershaw continues to strive for perfection.
If Justin Verlander is worth $202 million at 30 years old, what is Kershaw worth? The answer: priceless. Kershaw is still finding ways to improve, and his work ethic and competitive edge can be infectious.
Stat wise, Kershaw is currently 5-2 with a minuscule 1.35 ERA, has 72 strikeouts, a .166 batting average against, 0.82 WHIP and has tossed nearly eight innings per start over his last five outings. Kershaw demonstrates the same will to win as Michael Jordan, and that combination of talent and drive makes the Dodgers a legitimate threat.
2. Carl Crawford
The Dodgers were optimistic Crawford could return to form, but the main prize in the mega deal with Boston was landing Adrian Gonzalez. I'll go out on the limb, per usual, and say Crawford is officially back.
Turn over Crawford's 2013 baseball card and check out the numbers: .297 batting average, .357 on base percentage, five home runs, 11 RBI, 26 runs and eight stolen bases. The leadoff hitter conundrum had Don Mattingly losing sleep, now it's the strength of his lineup.
3. Mark Ellis
Trivia time...When's the last time and only time Mark Ellis ever hit over .300?
Give up? In the 2005 season Ellis hit .316 as a member of the Oakland Athletics. Flash forward eight seasons later to present day and Ellis is batting .329, sports an OBP of .348, two home runs, 11 RBI, 10 runs and the 35-year-old even swiped a bag.
Historically, Ellis is a mere .266 hitter and considered a liability in the box. Although, his previous failures are irrelevant because the world of sports coincides with the saying of "what have you done for me lately?" Lately, Ellis has been exactly what the doctor ordered for the two spot in the order, stellar in the field (as always) and good enough that fans actually missed him while on the designated list.
4. Nick Punto
Between Luis Cruz and Juan Uribe, the Dodgers arguably posses baseball's worst third base combination. However, throw Nick Punto into the mix and the situation doesn't look as bad.
I wouldn't be shocked to see Punto channel his inner Eminem and snap back to reality (utility man) before this article draws negative feedback. For now, lets follow Jim Harbaugh's (San Francisco 49ers head coach) mantra of "ride the hot hand."
Punto enters Thursday's home stand surpassing his own expectations, batting .322, on base percentage of .410, one home run, nine RBI, 11 runs and two steals. Punto's career marks are way worse, batting .249 with a .328 on base percentage, causing the casual observer to recognize the reeking smell of overachievement. Until the numbers drop, Mattingly should give Punto increased responsibilities and express gratitude for his early contributions.
5. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Spending $61.7 million and committing six years to Hyun-Jin Ryu exemplified another risky Dodgers move, but it has paid off since day one. Credit the scouting department for the acquisition, recognizing Ryu's calm cool mentality would translate over to America, and the world's premier hitters wouldn't be able to handle his nasty change up.
Through Ryu's first 10 outings, seven ended up getting marked down as quality starts. Ryu has also demonstrated an ability to post strikeouts outs with regularity (60), averaging six per start highlighted by 12 whiffs on April 30th against the Colorado Rockies.
The Dodgers knew Kershaw and Greinke would lead the way, but the rotation still had question marks beyond the pair of aces. Ryu's emergence gives the Dodgers one of baseball's best 1-2-3 punches.
The positives of Dodgers baseball could go on: A.J. Ellis is a solid starting catcher, Scott Van Slyke providing home run potential off the bench and farmhands Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig showcasing a bright future.
Just because times are rough, doesn't mean nothing has gone right. The Dodgers aren't approaching panic time, but would be if the players discussed above didn't rise to the occasion.
On the contrary, the negatives surrounding Dodgers baseball unquestionably outweigh all of my previous remarks. Fans are consistently complaining about the disappointing start, but need to understand it could be significantly worse.
Please feel free to disagree with my optimism, but the wise Bobby McFerrin weighed in on the matter and said, "Don't worry be happy."