Once again, it’s October. Once again, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the NL West champs, winning their ninth division title in ten years. I think this team has slightly more downside risk than other versions of the Dodgers we’ve seen over the last ten years ... but then again, this is the team that just recorded more wins than any National League team in the last 116 years.
A lot is going to be made of how strong Atlanta’s second half was, as the team that got off to a middling start ran down the Mets to win the NL East. Credit where it’s due, they stepped on the gas and did not look back. You wanna know something crazy though? So did the Dodgers, except they weren’t stagnant in the first half.
Manager: Dave Roberts
Top hitter: Freddie Freeman (7.1 fWAR)
Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, and Will Smith have been outstanding all year; that’s kind of what they do no matter what part of the calendar you’re in. Justin Turner, for half the season, looked every bit the 37-year-old he is. Max Muncy was lost at the plate for 50 percent of the season, and while Trace Thompson showed flashes of strong play, it was clear that something else had to be unlocked with him.
Atlanta became division champions by going all-in in the second half. All the Dodgers did in that same period was run out a lineup that on any given day featured eight hitters with at least a 115 wRC+. On the whole, six hitters took at least 250 plate appearances while posting at least a 120 wRC+ over the entire campaign. For context, just two hitters on the Yankees took 250 plate appearances with at least a 120 wRC+: Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. It’s not exaggerating to say this Dodgers lineup, like seemingly every one they’ve run out for the last six or seven seasons, is among the best in recent baseball history.
Now if there’s one weakness for the Dodgers, it's their pitching depth. Of course, they have the best staff by ERA and fWAR, third best by FIP and K-BB%, but when you break down their staff, there are some concerns. Tony Gonsolin threw 80 more innings this season than any other time in his major league career, and saw his second-half K-BB% drop 11 percent while his ERA went up by half a run. Now, his second half ERA was still 2.45, so we have a bit of a Nestor Cortes situation here, but after Max Scherzer of all people was very clearly gassed last October, it has to sit in the mind of Dodgers fans.
That’s it, that’s the nitpick. Craig Kimbrel hasn’t been what the Dodgers wanted, that’s another one. He got demoted from the closer’s role by season’s end, but it’s not exactly like the Dodgers are a deficient team in relief; Evan Phillips and Alex Vesia both posted sterling numbers out of the ‘pen anyway.
It’s hard to find holes in a 111-win team. Yeah, they’d probably be better if Walker Buehler was in the rotation. Chris Taylor has been a disappointment after the club brought him back. The Dodgers are the best team in baseball, and as far as I’m concerned, are the favorites to win the whole damn thing.