The Los Angeles Dodgers enter Friday with the best record in baseball at 76-32 and have only lost a whopping three games since July 4. The Dodgers are on a historic pace, but all will be for not if the team cannot continue their success when the postseason comes in October.
The Dodgers have won the NL West the previous four seasons, and soon to be five, but they have failed to make the World Series in all four. To find the last time Los Angeles took part in the fall classic, you have to go back to 1988. The Dodgers are too good to be satisfied with not at least reaching the World Series this fall, and the pressure of coming up short the last four seasons will also be weighing on them. They look invincible right now, but are they set up to be successful in the 2017 postseason.
Many will tell you that success cannot be achieved in baseball without quality starting pitching, and this gets magnified even more in the postseason. There are usually four turns in a postseason rotation, and sometimes only three if a pitcher goes on short rest.
The Dodgers have their number one slot covered with the man who has been the best pitcher in baseball for years now. Clayton Kershaw is 15-2 this season with an unbelievable 2.04 ERA, but these type of numbers have just become normal for Kershaw at this point.
Kershaw did go on the disabled list a little less than two weeks ago with back discomfort but is expected back before the start of the postseason. Kershaw has made 14 starts in the postseason already but has only posted an ERA of 4.55. He did improve last season giving up just 4 runs in 12 innings pitched and as long as he is healthy for October, I think the Dodgers are safe with Kershaw in this year’s postseason.
The number 2 slot may be the most important for the Dodgers. Last year they went with crafty lefty Rich Hill, who respectably gave up 5 runs in 13 innings over 2 starts. Hill is pitching well again this season with a 3.35 ERA over 15 starts and will likely be used again in October, but the Dodgers number 2 slot in the 2017 playoffs is set up for Yu Darvish.
The Dodgers went out and acquired the frontline starter Darvish from the Rangers just before the trade deadline, and he may just make or break the Dodgers potential postseason run. Darvish has been a little shaky so far in 2017 going 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA, but the man has certainly been battled tested in the postseason. He has pitched in the postseason with Texas in 2012 and 2016, and the Dodgers are banking on that experience panning out.
If Clayton Kershaw did not pitch in Los Angeles, the Dodgers might still have the best pitcher in baseball this year because another lefty Alex Wood is 13-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Wood has certainly been phenomenal but has also never made a postseason start.
Overall the Dodgers one through four looks extremely solid assuming Kershaw is able to make it back from injury.
The bullpen is magnified in modern baseball more than it ever was before. With all the power arms we see now, managers are calling upon numerous pitchers just to come in and get one out in a postseason game. Knowing this, the Dodgers went out and picked up left handed relievers Tony Cingrani from Cincinnati and Tony Watson from Pittsburgh.
Neither pitcher has stats that are off the charts this season, but both have proven to be tricky against left handed hitters. This is all the Dodgers want from them in October. They will team up with another quality lefty in Luis Avilan who has an ERA of 3.19 in 46 appearances this season.
The Dodgers bullpen seems to be set up for success as long as they can get to the ninth inning where closer Kenley Jansen will be waiting. Jansen has posted a 1.33 ERA in 45 appearances in 2017 and has only one blown save in 29 tries.
There have been a few teams that have scored more runs this year than the Dodgers, but let us remember the Dodgers play in Chavez Ravine which is not exactly a hitter friendly ballpark. I tried to find some uncertainty for the Dodger’s lineup in the postseason, but it is just not there.
Most of their lineup has a considerable amount of postseason at bats, including Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig who have both hit well over .300 in the postseason. Two of their main contributors in 2017, Michael Taylor and Cody Bellinger, will be seeing their first postseason action, however.
The Los Angeles lineup does not sway heavy toward the left or right side of the plate either. They have plenty of favorable matchups and depth off the bench to prevent a pitcher from matching up well against them.
The team is loaded with young talents like Cody Bellinger, who has 30 home runs and 71 RBI on the season, and also veterans like Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez (when he returns from injury) that will surely be ready when called upon.
The Dodgers will likely be dealing with the same tough teams as they did in the 2016 postseason with the Nationals and Cubs, but this Dodgers roster is the most complete team in baseball and best set up for postseason success. They have no reason to not be one of the final teams standing in late October, and only the building pressure to win a ring will stop them.