After coming up short with high hopes in the last few seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers must finally capture the elusive World Series trophy. It’s been a long 32 years since they’ve brought L.A. a championship.
The Dodgers are one of Major League Baseball’s premiere franchises, and they’ve dominated the National League in recent years. They have claimed the National League West pennant for eight consecutive seasons now, giving fans a lot of hope, but the team struggles to get over the postseason hump.
The 2017 World Series ended with a heartbreaking and highly controversial loss to the Astros as it was revealed that Houston was cheating. The Dodgers failed to deliver on baseball’s biggest stage again in 2018, going down without much of a fight in five games to the Boston Red Sox.
L.A. came back in 2019 with high hopes once again. Although they lost shortstop Manny Machado and right fielder Yasiel Puig, neither was particularly special in their 2018 playoff run. To make up for it, they got a breakout MVP season from first baseman and outfielder Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger and the Dodgers finished with a National League-best 106 wins and were again expected to make a deep playoff run at the very least. Angelenos wanted nothing less than a title.
Unfortunately, a brilliant underdog run from the Washington Nationals with a Howie Kendrick grand slam cut the Dodgers’ postseason short in the National League Division Series. Pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s one bad start and relief appearance that featured more home runs than outs was partially to blame for the additional disastrous playoff series.
Bellinger and shortstop Corey Seager underperformed with only two extra base hits between them, and the team as a whole was average at best, combining to hit just .220 with 9 home runs over five games. Analytics junkies don’t value batting average much anymore, but I still find it useful in certain cases — .220 is not good no matter how you slice it.
After learning of Houston’s sign-stealing antics that helped rob L.A. of a ring, the Dodgers geared up for the 2020 season with a chip on their shoulders. Even after losing starting pitchers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill, they were still heavily favored in sports books to win the division. Then they traded for 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts.
And just how good are the Dodgers this year? They won 43 of their 60 games. This pace would have resulted in 116 wins in a regular season — a number only achieved twice in MLB history.
The Dodgers have had their fair share of injuries and used a countless number of different lineups. Most teams like to have a consistent lineup and to play with the same eight guys in the field as much as possible, hoping to establish a rhythm and chemistry.
Perhaps the Dodgers’ greatest strength is their depth and versatility. Chris Taylor can play basically anywhere, and Enrique Hernandez has made appearances at five different positions this season. Max Muncy can play all around the infield, which gives them options: Justin Turner can be moved to the designated hitter spot, and Bellinger can be moved to first base. Even Betts made an appearance at second base.
This will give the Dodgers a lot of flexibility for mid-game adjustments in the playoffs. Hernandez is a valuable defender, but he can’t seem to hit. Maybe he starts a game at second base and gets subbed out in the sixth or seventh inning. L.A. will have several guys ready to step in that can play multiple positions.
This is important because the Dodgers won’t have the normal advantages that baseball’s best team enjoys in the postseason. Homefield advantage isn’t really a factor this year, but past that, they will play the rest of the postseason in Texas.
Furthermore, under the new playoff format, a shortened best-of-three Wild Card Series means a bad start and some bad luck could be all it takes to send baseball’s best team packing early two years in a row.
The Dodgers look like the best team in the league without a clear runner-up. Their offense ranks in the top five in runs, RBIs, OBP and SLG, and their 118 homers are the most by any MLB team.
Their pitching roster also looks great. Dodgers pitchers rank No. 1 in ERA at 3.02 and No. 2 in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Walker Buehler has returned from injury and will have the ball Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Any time you have three former MVPs on one team, you should make a legitimate World Series run. The Dodgers have Kershaw, and he’s not even their Game 1 starter. Reigning MVP Bellinger isn’t even their best position player. This team has been to the World Series twice in the last three years and won 302 regular season games in those seasons, second only to the Astros, who … well, you get it.
But nobody cares about the regular season wins, division titles and pennants. It’s time for baseball’s best team to finish the job. They’re deep, they’re talented, they have excellent pitching, and they’re hungry to win what was stolen from them in 2017. Anything less than a championship is unacceptable.
Wyatt Allsup is a junior writing about Los Angeles sports. His column, “Running the Break,” runs every other Tuesday.