The Dodgers Are Running On Fumes

Entering the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers were supposed to be an invincible super team. Heading into the All-Star Break, they're anything but.

The Dodgers were demolished by Zack Wheeler and the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, after losing series to the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks, and squeaking out a series win against the Milwaukee Brewers. Put it together, and the Dodgers are just 4-6 in their last 10 games. They're just 22-20 over the past two months. 

And while their division lead has remained substantial, thanks to a mediocre National League West, there are suddenly a number of clear issues for the team to address moving forward. Those issues, however, don't have clear solutions.

Dodgers Pitching, Hitting Both Struggling

The signings of Shohei Ohtani and Teoscar Hernandez were expected to make the Dodgers lineup one of the most dangerous in the sport. For the most part, its worked. The Dodgers lead Major League Baseball in weighted runs created plus and offensive WAR, per Fangraphs.

But much of that success came before a rash of injuries put the lineup into turmoil. Max Muncy's missed several months with an oblique injury, then superstar outfielder/infielder/shortstop Mookie Betts was hit in the hand by a pitch in the middle of June. Jason Heyward has also missed significant time. That's forced the Dodgers to give more playing time to players like Miguel Rojas, Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez. They even picked up Cavan Biggio from the Toronto Blue Jays to provide depth. The same Cavan Biggio currently hitting .197.

Part of the Dodgers' strength has been quality lineup depth and coverage to protect against injuries. But in 2024, those depth players have underperformed relative to their career norms. And on many dates through mid-July, the Dodgers' lineup has been far from the juggernaut it would normally be. Despite Ohtani's MVP-level performance.

It's not just the hitting; their pitching has also dealt with injuries and poor performances. 

Walker Buehler returned after nearly two years, only to struggle to a 5.84 ERA before being placed on the injured list again. Bobby Miller made just a few starts in April before hitting the IL himself, then has been generally ineffective after returning. Including allowing nine runs in just four innings against the Phillies on Tuesday. 

Yoshinobu Yamamoto also went down in mid-June with a strained rotator cuff, and no set return date. Tyler Glasnow just hit the injured list, and Clayton Kershaw remains out after offseason shoulder surgery.

The Dodgers frequently deal with more than their fair share of injuries, but 2024 has been exceptionally rough, even by their standards. 

What Can Be Done About It?

Unfortunately for Dodgers fans, the only obvious answer is time. Yamamoto's injury is not expected to be season ending. Glasnow is expected back shortly after the All-Star Break. Max Muncy seemed to be progressing towards a return, and remains adamant he won't be out much past mid-late July.

Mookie Betts should return in early August, and Clayton Kershaw's supposed to start up a rehab assignment again in the next few days. Even the bullpen could get some reinforcements with Joe Kelly making his way back. In theory, by the early-middle part of August, the Dodgers could look much closer to the team fans expected entering the season. In theory.

Then there's the trade deadline; the Dodgers have obvious needs for starting pitching and more hitting. But the 2024 trade deadline may have just a few players available, sending acquisition costs skyrocketing. Bo Bichette could make sense, as could Garrett Crochet or Tarik Skubal, if the Tigers make him available. But will Andrew Friemdan and Brandon Gomes spend the prospect capital required? Do you go all in for 2024, hoping that health and Ohtani will carry you through?

The Dodgers are a near certainty to make the playoffs, so the urgency may not be there to go big or go home. But if they don't, they might be going home early in October yet again.

Written by

Ian Miller is a former award watching high school actor, author, and long suffering Dodgers fan. He spends most of his time golfing, traveling, reading about World War I history, and trying to get the remote back from his dog.