After winning their ninth game in a row, the Dodgers (53-31) now own the second best record in baseball, trailing the San Francisco Giants (53-30) by half a game. To close the first half of the season, the team is in Miami for four road games, and then will travel home to play the Arizona Diamondbacks (23-63) to end the first half of the season. Couldn’t really ask for a better schedule. At 35-47, the Marlins own the worst record in the NL East, trailing the first place Mets (43-37) by nine games. Despite this, Miami owns the best run differential in the division at +20. Tonight features likely the best starters on both teams in Walker Buehler up against the left-handed Trevor Rogers.
|CF||Taylor||2B||Chisholm Jr. (L)|
|RF||Souza Jr.||LF||Sánchez (L)|
|2B||McKinstry (L)||3B||Panik (L)|
|P||Buehler (R)||P||Rogers (L)|
After a quick turnaround from the Nationals series, Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, and Max Muncy will all have the day off against the talented 23 year-old lefty. The Dodgers have struggled a bit this season offensively against left-handed pitching, ranking 18th in wRC+ at 96, and 20th in OPS at .701. Overall, the Marlins are 23rd in wRC+ at 90, and 29th in OPS at .672. The Dodgers are seventh in OPS at .747 and fourth in wRC+ at 110. That gap between wRC+ and OPS is due to Miami being one of, if not the most pitcher friendly park in baseball. The Dodgers are also in a pitcher friendly park overall, explaining their difference in OPS vs. wRC+, but not to the extent of the Marlins.
Here’s how Buehler and Rogers matchup.
I’ll get to Dodgers’ All-Star selections a little later, but Buehler was one of those guys right on the edge of being selected, with a 2.35 ERA, the tenth lowest in baseball. He also has the sixth lowest WHIP in baseball at 0.90. There’s only eight starting pitchers that made it, and he has a relatively league average strikeout rate, not an insanely low ERA, and no extremely impressive peripheral stats. I get it. He’s just been very effective, so it’s tough to see him not make it.
He has just a 1.53 ERA in his last nine starts, allowing just ten runs over 59 innings. I believe that also plays a part into his lack of selection, because if you’ve watched the majority of his starts, you can see how he’s worthy of an All-Star selection based on his recent form, pitching into the seventh inning or deeper in five of those nine starts, and going at least six innings in every start this season. He trails only Zack Wheeler in that category, as Wheeler has averaged 6.2 innings per start, where Buehler has averaged just below that at six and a half innings. He’s been great. Whether or not he’s an All-Star, he consistently puts the team in positions to win games every single time he’s on the mound. You can’t ask for much more than that out of a starting pitcher. In his most recent start against the Giants, he gave up just one unearned run on three hits and a walk across 6.2 innings, while striking out seven.
For Rogers, last time out he allowed two runs on two hits and four walks, while striking out nine over 5.2 innings. Rogers is the lone All-Star for the Marlins, which makes sense when you look at the stellar season he’s had thus far. The 23 year-old lefty was the thirteenth overall pick in the 2017 draft, featuring a mid 90’s fastball, a mid 80’s changeup, and a low 80’s slider.
Among qualified starters in baseball, not just the National League, Rogers is eighth in ERA (2.14), and fifth in FIP (2.61). He boasts a high strikeout rate at 30.0%, fifteenth in baseball, but also pairs it with the 57th ranked walk rate out of 63 qualified starters at 8.7%, with 32 walks in 92.1 innings. The Dodgers’ offense has the highest walk-rate in baseball at 10.9%, so if he can avoid issuing free passes, the team will have their work cut out for them.
Here’s the 2021 National League All-Star Pitchers and Reserves, with no Dodgers making the game as starters at their positions, or as pitchers.
Betts, Muncy, and Chris Taylor all make the All-Star team as reserves. Taylor makes his first All-Star team, as Muncy makes his second, and Betts makes his fifth.
Obviously, as I mentioned, Walker Buehler was right on the cusp. Justin Turner has arguably been the best third baseman in the National League, and he was fighting to make the All-Star team as a starter over Nolan Arenado, and for him to miss is a huge snub. Taylor and Betts have been fifth and sixth in fWAR among qualified outfielders in the National League, so making it as reserves makes perfect sense.
Another big snub is Padres closer Mark Melancon making it over Kenley Jansen. The four relievers that made the team were Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, Alex Reyes, and Melancon. Jansen has a 1.30 ERA, sixth in the NL trailing all of Kimbrel, Reyes, and Hader, while significantly ahead of Melancon at 2.27. Jansen has also been better than Melancon in all other meaningful stats, including bWAR and fWAR, ERA, WHIP, and FIP. Melancon does have the most saves at 25 while Kenley has 21, but he’s also has four blown saves compared to Jansen with two.
With Trevor Bauer on administrative leave, this opens a spot on the 40-man roster. Scott Alexander had a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings earlier this season before his injury, so adding him into the bullpen will likely be very helpful. Garrett Cleavinger has had moments where he’s looked like an extremely impactful left-handed relief option, but the consistency and strike throwing hasn’t been there yet. He’ll be back.
It’s also possible to see Ryan Pepiot later this season, currently working as a starter and performing extremely well in Double-A, Tulsa. Here’s a nice interview FanGraphs had with him a month ago to get an idea as to who he is.
First pitch is at 3:40 PM PDT on SNLA.