Seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium, Independence Day (click to enlarge)

When you’re out of the blogging groove but the ideas keep coming, the easy thing to do is just dish them off on Twitter. But tweets are like shooting stars, and sometimes you want a constellation. So here I am back at Dodger Thoughts to try to collect some thoughts.

Also, I’m convinced that tons of people bypass the intro to a column and to get straight at the meat, so let’s get right to it.

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I posted the tweet above on Thursday right after the Diamondbacks’ loss to the Padres dropped them .002 behind the Dodgers, putting Los Angeles in first place for the first time this year. It’s a noteworthy milestone for a team that was 16-26 on May 16. As I noted earlier this year, every single one of the Dodgers’ five straight division titles has come with no small amount of drama, with this year’s rally from 8 1/2 games back  more reminiscent of the 2013, 2014 and 2016 comebacks.

The tweet doesn’t suggest that first place by percentage points in the first week of July is the ultimate goal. Nor is there any illusion that the Dodgers might not be back in second place after tonight’s games. Recognizing the moment for what it is, and taking some pleasure from it if you so desire, doesn’t take away from the pursuit of a World Series title.

A couple of responses to the first tweet suggested the Dodgers were taking advantage of a weak National League West. One person called it “pathetic.” I don’t think a division with four winning teams can be called weak, any more than a division with no team on a 90-win pace can be called strong. It’s pretty clearly in the middle.

But I did check the state of the division against the other five in MLB, and the differences are striking. The presence of the Orioles really cuts the American League East down to size. But nothing is more striking than the gap between the AL West and the AL Central.

Say what you will about the division, but for the past quarter of a season since May 16, the Dodgers have been the best team in all divisions.

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The Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday sweep of Pittsburgh was powered by the offense that has propelled the Dodgers in the right direction since mid-May. Here’s one tweet that captures the dominance of their 17-1 victory Monday.

Here’s another that illustrates the overall power surge by the team.

The second most surprising name on that list has to be Kiké Hernández. Sure, he’s shown flashes of power before — hitting three homers in the pennant-clinching victory over the Cubs and generally tormenting Madison Bumgarner, but who saw him being on pace for 28 homers this season?

And here’s a note about a surprise hero from last season that perhaps has been underappreciated in 2018: Chris Taylor. Do people realize that Taylor’s adjusted OPS this year of 123 is now ahead of his breakout 2017 season. All this while taking over at shortstop for what should have been the Dodgers’ most devastating loss to injury this year, Corey Seager.

But look, more than anyone — more than even Matt Kemp — the story of the year is the completely unforeseen launch of Max Muncy.

With 10 days to go until the All-Star Break, Muncy’s 1.060 OPS is the second-highest in Los Angeles Dodger history (minimum 200 plate appearances), trailing only Gary Sheffield’s 1.093 in 2000. Justin Turner (1.056 in 2017) and Mike Piazza (1.055 in 1996) are close behind.

With Turner rounding into form (.907 OPS over the past month), third base is spoken for in the Dodger lineup. First baseman Cody Bellinger (1.027 OPS since June 6) has been even better. Joc Pederson (1.105 OPS over the same time period) has been better still. With only small slumps, Matt Kemp has been killing it all season, and even Yasiel Puig has a .931 OPS since the Dodgers hit rock bottom on May 16.

As a result, Muncy has been forced to play second base this year in much the same manner that Taylor had to learn center field on the fly in 2017. Though he still moves around the diamond, he is essentially the starting second baseman at this point.

Muncy and Taylor have something else in common.

At the same time, Muncy’s emergence as a hitter seems more like that of Turner to me. He fits the profile of a 6-feet-under batter who combines a great grasp of the strike zone with a newfound channeling of power into making himself deadly.

Here’s what’s extraordinary. On your average night, Muncy, Taylor and Turner comprise three-fourths of the Dodger starting infield. The total cost for originally acquiring all three players: Zach Lee.

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One final note: More than a few responded to my Thursday hot dog tweet by either asking how who could possibly dislike a Dodger Dog, or by stating — with tongues apparently far from cheeks — that disliking Dodger Dogs is cause for disbarment as Dodger fans.

Look, I like Dodger Dogs fine, but for those who aren’t aware, let me break it to you — plenty of Dodger fans don’t. And they’re still Dodger fans.

Let’s not make arbitrary rules to divide us. Life is hard enough. Enjoy your weekend!