Greetings from sunny California! As 3U3D’s current West Coast dwelling writer, I thought it only made sense if I take the Dodger’s when it came time to split up the coverage assignments for the PostSeason. Add to that that I’ve always liked the Dodger’s and have considered them one of my other main teams to root for after my Tigers and it only made sense. Even if I did find myself rooting for the Cubs in last years NLCS and (full disclosure) would like to see them repeat. But we aren’t here to talk about the Cubbies, we’re here to breakdown the winningest team is baseball this season.
Yes, the Dodger’s 104-58 record was good for the best in the Major’s this year. They got there by being the best team on the planet for the first 5 months of the season and then limping their way through September, where they went 13-17, with 8 of those wins coming in the last 10 games. September also included a 10 game losing streak, which seemed unfathomable a few months ago when they put together the best 50 game stretch in the last 105 years. Multiple double digit win streaks propelled them into mid-season favorites to win it all and that’s where we remain today for the most part. And for good reason, because there’s a lot to like about this team. Starting with pitching.
What can be said about Clayton Kershaw that hasn’t already been said? Well, World Series Champion for one thing, but that’s putting the cart before the horse a little bit. His career ERA is in the top 50 for the live ball era. He and Mariano Rivera are the only two members of that club whose pictures aren’t in black and white. This season, Kershaw finished top in the NL in wins with 18, which is also good for a shared 1st place in the entire MLB. He also finished 1st in the NL in ERA(2.31), 2nd in WHIP(0.949),5th in K’s per 9(10.389, 4th in Hits per 9(6.994) and 2nd in Walks per 9(1.543). This was in a season where most people are saying that Kershaw wasn’t as good as he usually is, especially since he dealt with injury for most of August and did not come back strong in September. There’s no doubt about it, as goes Kershaw goes the Dodgers and LA is going to need their Ace to forget about the troubles of the last month, and the troubles of October’s past, and be THE Clayton Kershaw if they’re going to make it to the Fall Classic. And make no mistake, anything short of that this season can only be considered an utter failure. The big advantage this Dodger’s team has over years past is that this year they shouldn’t need to rely AS heavily of their Ace, with Dave Roberts even already coming out and stating that should it be necessary, Kershaw will not pitch in Game 4 of the NLDS on short rest as he has had to do for each of the past four seasons. This is largely due to the trade deadline acquisition of Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers. With Rich Hill pitching Game 2 and Darvish pitching Game 3, Game 4 can be pitched by either Alex Wood or Hyun-Jin Ryu with the other going to the pen should things fall apart early, as we have seen in both Wild Card games so far. Personally I hope it’s Ryu in Game 4 simply because of this:
It will be Hill in Game 2 and not Game 3 because Rich Hill is a vastly better pitcher at home than he is away, to the tune of a 2.77 ERA in 14 starts at Dodger Stadium and a 4.06 ERA in 11 starts elsewhere. However the bullpen stacks up behind the starters is still up in the air as of this writing, but one thing is for certain. Kenley Jansen and the nastiest pitch in baseball will be waiting in the 9th (and sometimes the 8th).
On the offensive side of the ball, well… Chris Taylor(CF), Corey Seager(SS), Justin Turner(3B), and Cody Bellinger(1B) make for one of the most formidable 1-4 spots you could assemble. And Cody Bellinger is something special. I’ve already said multiple times that this is kid is 4 or 5 years away from being one of the game’s Greats. He gets a chance to get an early jump of that legacy here.
You also get Yasiel Puig in RF, providing he shows up to the park on time, a platoon of Curtis Granderson and Kike Hernandez in LF, either Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes behind the dish, and Chase Utley/Logan Forsythe at 2B. This is a potent offense. Let me put it this way, this is a team that will most likely not even put Adrian Gonzalez on the 25 man roster. Instead, Andre Either will anchor the Dodgers bench and he’s hitting .267/.333/.500 since coming back from a bad back in late in the season.
With their wild 11-8 win over the Rockies in the Wild Card game, the Dodger’s will face off against division foes the Arizona Diamondbacks. I would venture this is not who the Dodgers would’ve picked as their round one opponents. The Dodgers went 8-11 in their matchups with the D’Backs this season, including a pair of sweeps in the last month+ of the season. If you only include games where one of the big 3 LA pitchers made a start then the numbers look more like 4-3, with the trio of Kershaw, Hill, and Darvish posting a combined 3.15 ERA. The Diamondbacks also come into the PostSeason on fire, going 17-11 in September. There is a lot to be said of momentum coming into a series and it wouldn’t be hard to argue that Arizona has most of it right now. Unfourtantly for Arizona, they had to use both their Ace Zack Greinke AND their No. 2 guy Robbie Ray in the Wild Card game to get it done, meaning it’s very likely the Dodgers won’t see either of them until Game 3. This is very good news as this club cannot figure out Robbie Ray. He is the only pitcher ever to post double digit K’s 4 times on LA in one season. If he had started Game 1, the Dodger’s may have been in trouble because in their last 15 series, dating back to 1988, the series has gone the way of Game 1 EVERY SINGLE TIME. With Ray and Grienke not available it is unclear as to who will get the start, but the favor has to lie with Kershaw and the Dodgers. That said, this will be a tight series with Arizona’s offense, anchored by Paul Goldschmidt and Deadline pickup J.D. Martinez (whom the Diamondbacks stole from the Tigers for nothing and I mean NOTHING! Ugh), can easily match the firepower of the Dodger’s lineup as they clearly demonstrated against the Rockies. In all honesty, this series will come down to small things that no one can see coming. It could easily go either way and my gut is actually telling me that the fans in LA should be bracing for heartbreak. But my brain is telling me that the rotation matchups should strongly favor the Dodgers, especially with unknown pitchers in games 1 and 2.
My brain and my eyes are telling me Dodgers in 4.
My gut is telling me Diamondbacks in 5.
My hope is that my brain is right and my gut is wrong. We’ll know in a week or so which way it went.