There are but three games left in the regular season, so I can’t help but look ahead to the impending playoffs and the World Series. It’s no secret that the Dodgers have not made the World Series in way too long, and years of just simply making it to the playoffs aren’t cutting it anymore. The last four years have seen the season end in heartbreak, so is this finally the year that the Dodgers make it to the World Series?
The best team in baseball rarely makes it to the World Series. Since 2002, only four times has the team that has the best regular season record won the World Series. Heading into a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers have 102 wins on the season, their highest win total since 1974, and are 57-24 at home, their best home record since moving to LA. They are currently one game ahead of the Cleveland Indians for best record in the majors. The Dodgers have a good chance to end the season with the best record, and history being against them.
The Dodgers recently came off a horrific skid, and they could fall flat again. It’s a part of the season that no Dodgers fan wants to relive. Losing 15 out of 16 games, and 11 in a row. Every single aspect of their game went to pot. The starting pitching and the bullpen couldn’t stop giving up runs. It coincided perfectly with the offense not being able to get any runs of their own. Who’s to say that wouldn’t happen again? These are tough teams the Dodgers will be facing—not the Giants or the Padres. The Dodgers could be playing the Diamondbacks in the first round, and during that losing streak, they faced them six times and lost all of those games. If they advance to the NLCS, they could see the Washington Nationals, who have three starting pitchers in the conversation for the Cy Young award. If all aspects of the Dodgers game are not on, then it will be an early exit from the playoffs once again.
Clubhouse issues will rear their ugly head. Last week, it came to light that Yasiel Puig was once again having issues, when he ran into the last out of the game, didn’t slide and acted hurt. He then proceeded to show up late for an early workout the next day, causing Dave Roberts to benched once again. Alex Wood has deservingly been campaigning all season for a starting role in the post season, and it may be given to Hyun-Jin Ryu instead. Could dissension lead to unrest and cause the team to not perform as it should?
These issues could haunt the Dodgers in the postseason. But then again…..
The postseason is a crapshoot, and records go out the window. The Dodgers have the best record in the major leagues for a reason. Think about it—they went on a horrific skid, and STILL have the best record. Cleveland went on an epic winning run of their own, winning 22 straight games and 27 of 28, and they still couldn’t overcome the Dodgers. And, who’s to say that Cleveland couldn’t get cold at the wrong time? If you’re going to include any streaks in your debates about best teams, then what was done at other times in the season should be included, too.
Streaks mean nothing. The Dodgers also had a wonderful winning streak of their own, albeit earlier in the season. They really look like they are heating up again. Although it was against the Padres, the Dodgers have put big offensive numbers the last few nights. If the Dodgers play the Diamondbacks, they have confidence in knowing that Arizona didn’t face any of the Dodgers’ best pitchers, and also that the Diamondbacks, aside from JD Martinez, really aren’t all that good against left-handed pitching. And the Dodgers have that in spades. Home field advantage, knowing they can beat Greinke, and revenge in itself will all lead LA to a NLDS win over Arizona.
The clubhouse is fine. The issues with Yasiel Puig are nothing new, and are seemingly less than what the doctors have dealt with in years past. Kenley Jansen has apparently taking on the older brother role of Puig and will get him in line again. Roberts will continue to preach how it is a total team effort, and not just one player getting into the World Series. Adrian Gonzalez has led by example, with his willingness to be shut down for the year for the betterment of the team and not pushing for his own personal gain. Between the last four years in the playoffs, and the losing skid, they have a lot to draw on for motivation. Jansen and Clayton Kershaw put the team on their back last year, and they made it all the way to the NLCS. And guess what-this year, they have a lot more help.
The Dodgers have the right mix of veteran leadership and young talent. There’s finally solid pitching behind Kershaw in the rotation in Yu Darvish, a healthy Rich Hill and Wood. The offense is potent. They have six players that have hit 20 or more home runs. They have Puig hitting in the 8th spot, making the lineup solid from top to bottom.
Sure, they hit a huge rough patch earlier this year. And there is a lot of parity among the playoff teams this season. But none of these things directly discount what the Dodgers will be able to do in the postseason. This team is good, this team is hungry, and I believe that this is our year.
(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)