The Los Angeles Dodgers might be the best hitting team in baseball. Ok, their LA counterparts, the Angels, have the highest team wRC+ in baseball. But, they have the advantage of the designated hitter. If the DH is removed, the Dodgers are in a virtual tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates own a 116 team wRC+, while the Dodgers sit at 115, and they have scored 15 runs more than Pittsburgh.
The point is that Dodgers are healthy, and they can beat you in a myriad of ways. They have speed, power, and on-base skills. Also, with Hanley Ramirez rounding into shape and Matt Kemp recovering his old form at the plate, they are healthier than they've been all year.
Dee Gordon provides most of the speed in the Dodgers lineup. Entering this season the 26 year-old infielder had managed a woeful .256/.301/.312 slash line in nearly 700 plate appearances. But, given the Dodgers dire second base situation, he won the starting job out of Spring Training. He came out of the gate hot and has put together a solid .288/.325/.376 season. In addition, he's swiped 64 bases, which leads the major leagues. Gordon has +9.2 base running runs. As a team, the Dodgers have just 2.6, so he's responsible for the surplus. Carl Crawford has nabbed 22 bags and +3.9 base running runs, and Ramirez has stolen 14 bases.
Adrian Gonzalez and Kemp supply most of the power, and Yasiel Puig is no slouch in that department either, though he's sloughed off after a red-hot first half of the season. Scott Van Slyke has slammed 11 home runs in limited playing time and owns a .240 ISO, the best mark on the team. Hanley Ramirez also brings home run power. As a team, their position players have a .144 ISO, which ranks 11th in the major leagues. Considering that they play half their games in the cavernous Dodger Stadium, that number is better than it looks. Kemp's shoulder is no longer bothering him, and in the second half he's hitting a remarkable .304/.363/.580 with 15 home runs and a .277 ISO.
The Dodgers' team on-base percentage of .339 is the second highest in the major leagues. Justin Turner, who was non-tendered by the New York Mets in the offseason, leads the team with a .395 mark. He's been extremely valuable to the Dodgers infield, which has seen Ramirez and Juan Uribe miss time with injuries. Granted, Turner is playing way over his head, as his .401 BABIP will attest, and prior to this year he's never posted an OBP higher than .334. But, for now, the Dodgers are reaping the benefits of his extended hot streak.
Puig has dramatically improved his plate discipline, and his OBP sits at a lofty .385. He's dropped his overall swing rate by six percentage points and his chase rate by nine points. After an ugly month of August, he appears to be rounding back into form and is batting .301/.393/.438 in September. Overall, the Dodgers have 11 players that have received at least 200 plate appearances and produced an OBP better than the MLB average of .314. Among NL teams, only the Mets and Pirates have a higher team walk rate.
Oh, and let's not forget pitcher Zack Greinke, who has a 7.7 percent walk rate and a .143 ISO. Dodgers pitchers have a .163/.208/.209 batting line. They are one of just three NL teams with a positive wRC+ from their pitchers, and with a 19 wRC+, no group of pitchers has hit better.
In September, the Dodgers have been unstoppable. Their position players own a .300/.361/.474 line. Only the Orioles can match their 26 home runs, and only the Angels have surpassed their 117 runs. Crawford has a 217 wRC+ in 18 games, and six others hitters have at least a 160 wRC+. Even Andre Ethier has gotten in on the fun, with a .467 OBP in a pinch hitting role.
The Dodgers have a deep and balanced lineup. Yes, they have a trio of overpaid outfielders in Kemp, Crawford and Ethier. At least one of them will be on the bench in the playoffs. But, few teams have the kind of depth to stash above-average offensive players on the bench. When October rolls around, this will be one tough team to knock off, and that's not just because they have Clayton Kershaw.
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Stats courtesy of Fangraphs
Chris Moran is a former college baseball player at Wheaton College and current third-year law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He's also an assistant baseball coach at Wash U. In addition to Beyond The Box Score, he contributes at Gammons Daily. He went to his first baseball game at age two. Follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves.