The Los Angeles Dodgers may have more celebrating to do before the season ends. PHOTO: Reuters
The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the NL West with a 7-6 victory over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks, becoming the first team in baseball to secure a division title. As of today, they are the favorite to win the World Series. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the best team out there (though they could be) or that they can’t be derailed before the playoffs even start (injuries happen), but that’s true for any team. Right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the best bet to win the World Series. Here’s why:
1. That rotation
Don’t know if you noticed, but the Dodgers’ starting rotation is really good. Start with Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, add a revelation in Hyun-Jin Ryu and a stellar veteran, Zack Greinke, and you have the only rotation that can match up with the Detroit Tigers. The acquisition of Ricky Nolasco means L.A. won’t have to worry about a game 4 dropoff in pitching quality. With Kershaw and Ryu able to pitch 4 out of 5 games in the first round (don’t forget that the Dodgers can line up their rotation how they want, given the luxury of winning the division early), expect game 1 of the League Championship Series to be hosted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
2. 7 Legit Weapons
Every time through the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup, the opposing pitcher has to face Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andrew Ethier, Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe. That’s not to say that it’s the most consistent bunch. The Dodgers have faced issues with health (Crawford, Ramirez, Kemp, A-Gon), consistency (Ramirez, Kemp, Crawford) and maturity (Puig) but the group has gelled in the second half, putting up a collective 112 wRC+, meaning they have been 12% than the average offense. The only NL team within sniffing distance is the too-little-too-late Nationals. The Pirates, Braves and Cardinals can all match the Dodgers offense on a given night, but none has been the well-oiled machine that the Dodgers are in the second half.
3. They’ve Been Doing It Without Kemp
A year ago, the Dodgers offense was Kemp and the Question Marks. Now Kemp is the biggest question mark. The Dodgers know not to expect the MVP-worthy guy from 2011 and 2012 (when healthy), but L.A. hasn’t needed him. Kemp missed all of August and half of September, so the team can get by without him. If Kemp can bear any resemblance to his past self, the Los Angeles Dodgers offense becomes a true juggernaut.
4. Time To Heal
It’s easy to forget that the team that enters the playoffs isn’t always the same team that got there. The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are going to have to play their best players every day until the season ends, and two of them will need their best pitcher in a play-in game. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the Dodgers can rest Gonzales, Ethier, Crawford and whoever else needs it, and get their rotation lined up how they want it. Whoever emerges as the wildcard will likely only have their ace for one of the five games, while the Dodgers can count on Kershaw for games one and four.
5. The Easiest Path
There are no easy marks in the N.L. playoffs, whoever makes it through, but the Dodgers won’t have to face the Red Sox or Tigers until the World Series, and that’s preferable to whoever they will have to face. If we’re handicapping the World Series, we have to factor in that only one A.L. team can make it. While the Tigers (atrocious defense notwithstanding) matchup just fine against the Dodgers, Detroit still has to make it past the A.L.’s best to get there.
Los Angeles Dodgers fans: enjoy the ride, and sorry if I just jinxed you.