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Dodgers in April: Regular lineup, Clayton Kershaw record, another tight NL West race

A few themes from LA’s first 20 games

MLB: APR 08 Dodgers at Rockies Photo by Mark Stahl/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This season started for the Dodgers much like the end of last year, playing at well over a 100-win pace while also in a tight National League West race.

April ended with the Dodgers at 13-7, in second place. But the Padres, Giants, and Los Angeles are all within a half-game of each other.

April results

13-7 record
96 runs scored (4.8 per game, 2nd in MLB)
52 runs allowed (2.6 per game, 1st in MLB)
.754 pythagorean win percentage (15-5)

Let’s look at some themes from the season’s first month.

Uncommon regularity

Trading outfielder AJ Pollock to the White Sox netted the Dodgers a closer in Craig Kimbrel, but it also cleared a runway — to use one of Roberts’ favorite terms — for Gavin Lux, and he’s taken advantage, hitting .255/.350/.373 with a 115 wRC+ in the opening month.

Lux missed two games with back tightness, but otherwise the Dodgers regulars have all been healthy. The nine usual starters have accounted for 91.7 percent of all starts in April. The bench combined for only 15 starts in the month — catcher Austin Barnes (seven starts), Edwin Ríos (five), and Hanser Alberto (three).

Welcome aboard

Freddie Freeman’s first month with his new team was a productive one, hitting .299/.382/.468 with three home runs. He leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS (.850), wOBA (.379), and wRC+ (149).

Freeman also leads in slugging percentage, among regulars at least. Catcher Austin Barnes is at .526 in 21 plate appearances. But that a .468 slugging percentage leads the team that has scored the second-most runs per game in MLB shows the state of offense across baseball at the moment.

None shall pass

Clayton Kershaw had a great April for many reasons. The most important is that he’s healthy, which was very much a concern after an offseason of rest. Then he threw seven perfect innings in his first start of the season, in Minnesota. On Saturday, Kershaw passed Don Sutton to become the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout leader.

During April Kershaw struck out 30 batters with a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings, and walked only two. Both walks came Saturday, with Robbie Grossman his first, Kershaw’s 71st batter faced this season. Kershaw’s 26 strikeouts before a walk is the most he’s ever had to start a season. Kershaw had his sixth career in-season streak of three straight starts with no walks.

Extra arms

The first 25 days of the regular season saw expanded active rosters, with teams carrying 28 players instead of the usual 26. Sunday is the last day of that, and with no pitcher limit in place the Dodgers opted for sixteen pitchers for 15 of their first 20 games, and fifteen pitchers for the other five contests.

That allowed Los Angeles to spread the workload around, with 18 different Dodgers throwing a pitch so far. Starting pitchers averaged 5.13 innings per start, which ranked in the top third in MLB, and accounted for 58.1 percent of the team’s innings.

Eight times a pitcher appeared in a game on back-to-back days, though nobody more than once. Seven of those sets have come in the last week. Justin Bruihl was the only pitcher last month to pitch three days in a four-day span, doing so from April 23-26.

Results have been very good, with Dodgers pitchers owning the best ERA (2.29) in baseball, ranking second in FIP (2.80), and second in strikeout-minus-walk rate (19.6 percent).

Going streaking

Trea Turner has reached base every game this season, either by hit, walk, or hit by pitch. That includes all 20 games this season, in which he’s hitting .276/.329/.395, with a 111 wRC+.

But Turner also ended last regular season with a 19-game hitting streak, putting his active streak at 39 games reaching base. Since the start of the 2019 season, only three players had on-base streaks at least that long — Wander Franco in 2021 (43 games), Alex Bregman in 2019 (41 games), and the Dodgers’ Justin Turner in 2020-21 (39 games).

Up next

Just like in April, the Dodgers have a few more road games than at home during May, with 13 contests at Dodger Stadium and 16 games away from home. That includes the first two games against the Giants this season — this coming week, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers also play eight games against the Diamondbacks in May, four at each place, including a split doubleheader on May 17 as part of the lockout-canceled first week of the original schedule that got spread throughout the year.