Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw is tied with Detroit's Justin… (Mike Nelson / EPA )
The Dodgers needed to sweep the San Diego Padres to escape the National League West Division cellar before the All-Star break and are given 1,000 to 1 odds of reaching the World Series. Grading on a curve, or maybe it's a hard slider, against the rest of baseball, the team has passed some crucial tests in the first half but still have some makeup assignments to complete in the second half.
Overall grade: C
Starting rotation: C
The Dodgers have used seven starters and although four of them — All-Star Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley and Rubby De La Rosa — have earned-run averages below 4.00, only Kershaw and Billingsley have winning records.
The Dodgers' 23 save opportunities are the fewest in baseball, which is probably just as well since Jonathan Broxton and Hong Chih-Kuo have spent much of the season on the disabled list. Partly as a result, the Dodgers bullpen has the fewest wins and second-highest ERA in the league.
Defense up the middle: B+
The Dodgers have started five players at second base and four behind the plate and at shortstop, and none of them has played more than 50 games. That has made consistency hard to come by, yet the team has the second-fewest errors and best fielding percentage in the league.
Defense at the corners: B
See "Defense up the middle.". Casey Blake has started fewer than a third of the games at third base and the Dodgers have used nine players in left field. Yet, Juan Uribe, the primary replacement at third base, has only two errors in 50 games — one fewer than the nine left fielders — and Andre Ethier has been flawless in right field.
Manufacturing runs: F
The Dodgers haven't scored many runs, manufactured or otherwise, outscoring only San Diego and San Francisco, among NL teams. But it's not for a lack of trying. When the Dodgers start their runners, they've been successful, stealing a major league-best 37 bases since June 10.
Clutch hitting: F
The Dodgers are batting less than .230 with runners in scoring position and they're even worse with RISP and two out, hitting .206, better than only two NL teams before Sunday.
Management (coaching, decision making): Incomplete
Given what rookie Manager Don Mattingly has been given to work with, it's nearly impossible to assess his ability as a manager. He must be doing something right, though, since the Dodgers have a winning record in one-run games and are the only team yet to lose in extra innings.
Star power (is the team fun to watch; if so, who?): B-
All-Stars Kershaw and Matt Kemp are more than worth the price of admission. So, frequently, is Ethier. But the rest of the team? Not so much.
Off-season moves (have they worked out?): D
Free-agent addition Uribe has started at three positions but is hitting only .207. Jon Garland is out for the year after winning only once in nine starts. On the plus side, Matt Guerrier is 3-3 with a 4.14 ERA but leads the staff with 43 appearances. Tony Gwynn Jr. appears to have finally won the left-field job.
Excuses (do they have good ones; injuries?): C
Rafael Furcal, Broxton and Kuo, all expected to be key contributors, have each sat out more games than they've played. Garland's absence has left a big hole in the rotation and Blake has been on the DL three times.