The Los Angeles Dodgers currently have the most wins in the big leagues with an 85-45 record and for good reason. This team is firing on all cylinders this year, from their pitching staff posting a stellar 3.37 ERA, which is first in the big leagues, to their powerful lineup led by phenom Cody Bellinger, who has cranked an MLB-high 42 home runs.
We’ve seen the Dodgers in the Fall Classic in each of the last two seasons, but they failed to beat the Houston Astros in 2017 and the Boston Red Sox last year. They seem to always have enough to win the National League Pennant, but when it comes to winning it all, they have struggled against American League opponents.
But there just seems to be a different feeling surrounding the Dodgers this year. They arguably have the best rotation in baseball; the numbers speak for it. Their bullpen has struggled at times, but has still been productive. If their arms continue to throw well and the bats continue to roll, I don’t see any team in the NL that can stop the Dodgers from making their third consecutive World Series appearance.
Their Rotation Has Been Lights Out
Pitching and defense win championships. It’s a long time saying that has a lot of value to it. From a pitching standpoint, the Dodgers have been nothing short of amazing this year. Their rotation has posted a 3.00 ERA, which is first in the majors. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been LA’s best starter and one of the best in the game this year. His league-leading 2.00 ERA reflects exactly that. Ryu doesn’t have a big fastball; he relies on deceptiveness and location, rather than trying to blow fastballs by hitters. Add in a deadly changeup and breaking ball and Ryu is carving up oppositions this year.
Friday’s loss to the New York Yankees was honestly Ryu’s first really bad start of the year, and we’re in late August. He gave up seven earned runs over just 4.1 innings. The Dodgers lefty gave up just seven earned in 77 innings pitched at home prior to this start. He was going to get hit around eventually; it happens to the best.
When you have Clayton Kershaw as your second-best starting pitcher, you’re in good hands. The 31-year old has a 2.71 ERA this year, striking out 147 batters in just 143 innings. In the second half of the year, Kershaw has looked even better, recording a 1.84 ERA in 44 innings. We all know how disappointing Kershaw has been in the playoffs over the years, but if the Dodgers are going to make a serious run at a World Series title, they will need his best.
Walker Buehler is one of the most electric young arms in the game right now, with a high 90’s heater, filthy slider, and an obscure knuckle-curve that buckles hitters. The youngster is 10-3 with a 3.16 ERA this year, striking out 174 batters in just 148.1 innings. He has been a fantastic number three in LA’s rotation.
Rounding out the rotation is Kenta Maeda, who has struggled this year, as he sports a 4.13 ERA. He has been prone to the long ball as well, giving up 19 bombs. Ross Stripling was pitching well before going on the shelf with an injury, but he will be back very soon. The Dodgers called up rookie Dustin May to make some starts, and he could prove to be a valuable piece come the postseason, whether it’s in a long-relief role, or as a starter.
The bullpen has been decent this year, sporting a 4.04 ERA. Guys like Julio Urias, Dylan Floro, and Pedro Baez have been eating up innings. The one concern that could hurt the Dodgers in the playoffs however, is the inconsistency of Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning. He has blown two saves in the last week and six in total on the year. They will need him to sharpen up if they want to compete for a title.
The Dodgers have arguably one of the best starting pitching trios in baseball with Ryu, Kershaw, and Buehler. If their bullpen can become a little more consistent and the starters keep throwing the ball well, they will be in good hands come October.
A Powerful Lineup
The Dodgers lineup has been smashing baseballs all year long, with Bellinger leading the way. The 24-year old has slugged 42 home runs and 100 RBIs this year, while also hitting .314. The Dodgers have a team batting average of .260, which is fourth in the majors. They’ve dealt with their fair share of injuries, but have still managed to swing the bats well enough to keep scoring runs each night. Chris Taylor just returned from the injured list and hit .271 before his injury. Max Muncy has been the other primary power outlet for the Dodgers, launching 33 home runs. The left side of the infield of Corey Seager and Justin Turner has been productive per usual, hitting .272 and .291, respectively.
Alex Verdugo is a player who the Dodgers desperately need back in their lineup. He’s currently out with an oblique injury and should return sometime in September. He has been one of their most consistent hitters, batting .294 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs in 106 games. Joc Pederson has gone deep 25 times and can still come up clutch when need be, despite his .231 batting average. Bringing back a guy like Russell Martin has been great for the Dodgers too because he has a lot of experience behind the plate and knows how to handle the pressure of postseason baseball.
The name of the game for LA has been consistency. Their bats have scored runs on a nightly basis, and their rotation has been impressive all year. The only areas that could use fine-tuning is their bullpen and defense. They’ve committed 83 errors this year, which is 20th in the majors. In October, these mistakes can’t happen. They need to be sharp in every aspect of the game if they want to finally capture the World Series title they crave.
The Dodgers should definitely be considered the favorites to win the World Series this year along with the Houston Astros. Both teams have potent offenses and stellar pitching, which is needed to win a title. There’s a good chance that these two teams could meet each other once again in the Fall Classic, and oh boy, will that be one heck of a series just like in 2017.