Are the Dodgers the Team to Beat in the National League?
This past weekend’s series between the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers was supposed to be a battle for NL West supremacy. The Rockies entered the series just 1.5 games behind the surging Dodgers, but could close the gap and even re-take the division lead.
Instead, the Dodgers bludgeoned the Rockies, winning 6–1 on Friday, 4–0 on Saturday, and 12–6 on Sunday. Entering the bottom of the seventh inning of Sunday’s game, the Dodgers trailed 6–4. They ended the inning with a 7–6 lead after scoring all three runs in the frame via wild pitches by Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino and they would go on to score two additional runs courtesy of wild pitches in the bottom of the eighth.
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against the rival Angels, the Dodgers have won 17 of their last 19 contests, making them the hottest team in baseball. LA has pushed its record to 52–27 on the season, just .5 game behind the Houston Astros for baseball’s best record.
It’s been that kind of season for the men at Chavez Ravine. They have established themselves as the team to beat in the National League, and although there is a long way before the postseason even begins, the Dodgers are clearly the best team in the senior circuit.
The Dodgers’ offensive depth and versatility around the diamond are prime examples of why they have been a behemoth this season.
The heart of the order includes rookie phenom Cody Bellinger, shortstop Corey Seager and third baseman Justin Turner. A rookie, shortstop, and third baseman is not a prototypical heart-of-order lineup, but the Dodgers have struck gold with the trio. Ahead of Monday’s series opener against the Angels, Bellinger, Seager and Turner had combined to hit .317/.405/.575, according to FanGraphs.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the Dodgers’ hot start is that above average hitters such as Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig have yet to fully hit their stride. In fact, the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, second baseman Logan Forsythe, is simply a utility player because of the depth on the roster.
Furthermore, the Dodgers have raced to the top of the National League standings with a pitching staff that has underachieved and has had its share of issues this season. Clayton Kershaw has already allowed a career-high 17 home runs, while Rich Hill has already thrown 40 low-quality innings according to Fangraphs. Julio Urias was recently shut down after undoing season-ending shoulder surgery and Kenta Maeda, who made a spot start Tuesday night to give the other Dodgers starters an extra day of rest, has bounced between the bullpen and the sixth starter position after inconsistent results.
Through its collective struggles, the Dodgers starting rotation still leads the majors in pitching WAR (+12.7). The Dodgers also have the best team ERA (3.27) in baseball, thanks in large part to a stingy bullpen led by reliever Kenley Jansen. MLB.com awarded the Dodgers’ relief corps with “Bullpen of the Week” honors thanks to its herculean efforts last week.
Dodgers relievers allowed three earned runs and 12 hits in 25 2/3 innings. Relievers struck out 28 batters and only issued 11 walks, en route to earning three saves last week.
The Dodgers are a young, talented and deep team. When one aspect of their game isn’t clicking, there always seems to be another facet that carries them to victory. Baseball is a quirky game and the best or most talented team doesn’t always win the World Series. However, although there is more than half of the regular season remaining, the Dodgers have established themselves as the team to beat in the National League.