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Dodgers in July: Freddie Freeman hot, Trayce Thompson emerges, Max Muncy chases

21 wins in 26 games for LA

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The Dodgers distanced themselves from the competition with one of the best Julys in major league history. Twenty-one wins and only five losses pushed their lead from 2½ games to 12 over the Padres in the National League West.

The .808 win percentage is tied for the fourth-best in July dating back to at least 1913, along with the 2013 Rays. The common thread between the two teams, besides Andrew Friedman, is David Price, who had a 1.68 ERA in 48⅓ innings nine years ago for Tampa Bay, and a 2.70 ERA in 6⅔ innings this July for the Dodgers.

The best July record came from the 2017 Dodgers, who were 20-3 for the month.

July results

21-5 record
147 runs scored (5.65 per game, 2nd in MLB)
83 runs allowed (3.19 per game, 2nd in MLB)
.740 pythagorean win percentage (19-7)

Year to date

68-33 record
526 runs scored (5.21 per game, 2nd in MLB)
331 runs allowed (3.28 per game, 1st in MLB)
.700 pythagorean win percentage (71-30)

For starters

Like much of the season, the starting rotation has been the backbone of the Dodgers’ success.

Dodgers starting rotation

Month Games IP/start QS ERA
Month Games IP/start QS ERA
April 20 5.13 6 2.10
May 29 5.43 12 2.86
June 26 5.19 9 3.27
July 26 5.92 15 2.63

Their success was evident on the National League All-Star roster, with three starters — Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson — making the midsummer classic at Dodger Stadium, on July 19. Anderson led the way with a sparking 1.11 ERA in July, including allowing no earned runs over his final three starts.

This month, the starters were even better, picking up the slack in the first full month of the season with a 13-pitcher limit on active rosters. They averaged just a hair under six innings per start, second only to Houston (6.08) for July.

The Dodgers averaged 5.26 over the first three months of the season. In July, they posted a 2.63 ERA with 15 quality starts and a 13-3 record.

Prevalent in that run prevention was the defense behind the pitchers the gloves had an incredible month.

Top heavy

The Dodgers led the National League in runs scored during July, trailing only the Yankees in the majors. Freddie Freeman led the way, hitting 388/.447/.684 with a whopping 209 wRC+ for the month, which included a stretch that saw him reach base 18 times in 21 plate appearances just before the All-Star break. During the month, Freeman had 38 hits against only eight strikeouts.

The first four hitters in the Los Angeles lineup were excellent, with Trea Turner (.321/.351/.541, 151 wRC+), Will Smith (.270/.387/.461, 145), and Mookie Betts (.248/.325/.495, 130) all pulling their weight.

Gavin Lux joined that group, continuing his season-long climb by hitting 320/.416/.533 in July with nine extra-base hits and a 167 wRC+. That was enough to at least occasionally move Lux, who started in the bottom third of the order all year, up in the lineup. He batted sixth four times and fifth once over the final 10 days of the month, befitting his production.

On the season, Lux ranks fifth in the National League in on-base percentage (.378) and sixth in batting average (.302).

Chasing the dragon

Month BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ xBA/xSLG ISO BB rate K rate O-swing Z-contact
Month BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ xBA/xSLG ISO BB rate K rate O-swing Z-contact
April .136/.313/.273 77 .177/.356 .136 19.3% 20.5% 19.8% 91.1%
May .164/.341/.254 86 .192/.318 .090 21.2% 23.5% 20.2% 85.3%
June .197/.312/.364 97 .214/.469 .167 14.3% 20.8% 21.9% 81.6%
July .147/.277/.320 73 .162/.318 .173 14.9% 34.0% 21.7% 77.0%
Sources: Baseball Reference & FanGraphs

Max Muncy has struggled mightily this season, to say the least, hitting .161/.310/.303. After the UCL tear in his elbow that knocked him out of last year’s playoffs, I expected the power to take the longest to return. This is almost like reliving Cody Bellinger’s woes in 2021 after shoulder surgery (not to be confused with Bellinger’s own struggles this season, too).

Muncy’s isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) has gradually gone up as this season wore on, topping out at .173 in July. But even that is well below Muncy’s established norm with the Dodgers. He had a .246 ISO from 2018-2021, and his worst season in that stretch was 2020, when Muncy broke his thumb just before the season started and posted a .192 ISO.

The Dodgers stuck with Muncy that year, and paid off with a more productive Muncy in the postseason (.250/.438/.467). This year, Dave Roberts is again sticking by Muncy, who has provided above-average defense at both third base and second base. Of the 88 games this season that Muncy’s been active, he started 78 times, including starting 22 of 26 games in July.

But Muncy’s problem has been making contact. He struck out 34 percent of the time in July, his worst month of the season and well above his career mark (24.1 percent). He’s been gradually swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone (O-swing) and missing more and more pitches inside the zone (Z-contact). That’s wreaked havoc on his numbers, which among the 153 qualified major league hitters have Muncy ranked dead last in batting average (.161), 149th in slugging percentage, 110th in on-base percentage (.310), and tied for 135th (with Bellinger) with a 83 wRC+.

Stepping in

I’ve mentioned “the usual nine” a lot this year, referring to the Dodgers opening day lineup and how often those nine hitters have started this year, the most regular lineup they’ve had in years. It’s been buoyed by Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner, both of whom have started all 101 games this season, the first Dodgers to do that since Eric Karros started all 162 games in 1997.

The Dodgers ‘usual nine’

Month Games Starts Pct
Month Games Starts Pct
April 180 165 91.7%
May 261 224 85.8%
June 234 202 86.3%
July 234 184 78.6%
August 252 204 81.0%
Sept/Oct 297 228 76.8%
Totals 1,458 1,207 82.8%
Starts made by the nine players in the Dodgers’ opening day lineup on April 8, 2022

July was a trying month for the usuals, mostly because of a foot fracture sidelined for all but three games during the month. In addition, Justin Turner suffered abdominal tightness in the first game out of the All-Star break. He wasn’t place on the injured list but played only once in the final ten games of the month.

The regulars accounted for 78.6 percent of Dodgers starts during the month, which left room for others. Trayce Thompson took advantage, playing in 22 of 26 games in the month, starting 17 times. Thompson, acquired for cash considerations from Detroit on June 20, hit .290/.389/.548, a 164 wRC+ with three home runs, five doubles, a triple, and 12 RBI during July, while providing solid outfield defense.

Previous months in review: April | May | June

The month ahead

Twenty-eight games are on the docket for August, including 11 home games and 17 on the road. The Dodgers start the month with matchups against the Giants and Padres, then don’t play the division again until September.

LA finishes up its interleague schedule over a five-game stretch from August 9-14, with two at home against the Twins and three in Kansas City against the Royals. The entirety of Dodgers vs. Brewers — for the regular season, at least — takes place from August 15-24, with seven games over a ten-day span.