If there was any doubt about the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ resolve to win their first World Series since 1988, let July 31, 2017, be marked as the date it disappeared.
The Dodgers warmed up on trade deadline day by grabbing two left-handers for their bullpen: Tony Watson from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tony Cingrani from the Cincinnati Reds. And then, as the buzzer sounded at 4 p.m. ET, came the coup de grâce: a trade for Texas Rangers ace right-hander Yu Darvish.
Or, put another way: The best team in Major League Baseball added the best pitcher on the trade market.
That’s not a small haul going to Texas.
Willie Calhoun, a second baseman, checked in as the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect at MLB.com. A.J. Alexy, a right-hander, and Brendon Davis, an infielder, checked in at No. 17 and No. 27, respectively.
"If not now, when?"
The Dodgers have been efforting for a World Series title since Magic Johnson and a group of deep-pocketed investors took over in 2012. The process has been largely successful, producing four NL West titles since 2013. Yet also disappointing, as the World Series has remained elusive.
But even before Monday’s events, those four teams already looked like little league squads next to the 2017 Dodgers.
It says a lot that they’re an MLB-best 74-31 and on pace for 114 wins. What says even more is that they’re 65-20 since a 9-11 start. That’s a .765 winning percentage, or a 124-win pace over a full season.
And now they have Darvish.
A guy with a 4.01 ERA through 22 starts might only seem like good-not-great upgrade. But Darvish’s ERA is skewed by his most recent outing, in which he got lit up for 10 runs by the Miami Marlins.
That would be a red flag if the 30-year-old was showing signs of injury. But as Passan heard, the real explanation is much more benign:
Before that outing, Darvish was rocking a 3.44 ERA and striking out 9.7 per nine innings while walking only 2.9 per nine innings. Typical stuff for a guy with a 3.42 ERA since 2012.
That comes out to a 125 adjusted ERA+, which ties Madison Bumgarner for ninth among pitchers who’ve made over 100 starts since 2012.
“Every team in baseball would want Yu Darvish. That’s easy," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last week, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
Of course, Darvish probably wouldn’t be a Dodger if not for the injury to Clayton Kershaw.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner and current MLB ERA leader exited his July 23 start early with a bad back and is now on the disabled list. For the time being, Darvish will effectively be filling his shoes.
Yet the Dodgers rotation was hardly helpless outside of Kershaw.
Alex Wood has pitched like an ace. Rich Hill has recently joined the club. Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been solid. And all told, Dodgers starters lead baseball in ERA (3.25) and in FanGraphs WAR (13.0).
The Dodgers certainly have enough starting pitching to hold on to their 14-game lead in the NL West. And if Kershaw returns in September as expected, the Dodgers rotation will be reforged into a weapon perfectly capable of cutting through October.
The rest of the team is not too shabby either.
Led by Justin Turner, Corey Seager and super-rookie Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers are the only National League team with nine players who’ve taken more than 150 plate appearances and qualify as above-average hitters with an OPS+ over 100.
Dodgers hitters can also pick it. Per Baseball Prospectus, they’re tied with the Cubs for first in the NL in defensive efficiency.
Last but not least is a bullpen that, like the starting rotation, was already excellent. Dodgers relievers rank second in ERA (2.83) and FanGraphs WAR (5.7). In Watson and Cingrani, Roberts now has a couple of hard-throwing lefties to put to work in front of Kenley Jansen.
So how good are the Dodgers’ odds of winning the World Series?
According to Baseball Prospectus, way ahead of any other team’s odds:
|Rank||Team||WS Win %|
And the scary part: These odds haven’t yet been updated to account for Monday’s trade activity.
The obligatory word of warning is that this guarantees nothing.
The Dodgers are a runaway train now, but eventually they’ll come to a landscape where all bets are off. Extreme unpredictability has long been a defining characteristic of the MLB postseason. The 2017 Dodgers wouldn’t be the first superteam to be felled by it.
However, it was just last year that a superteam was the last squad left standing. It wasn’t always easy, but in the end the 2016 Cubs were simply better than everyone.
These Dodgers are much like those Cubs. They’re built to win every phase of the game and generally leave only microscopic nits to pick.
At least among the National League competition standing between the Dodgers and the World Series, it’s hard to say the same.
The Cubs have begun to resemble the team they were last year, but they may not be free of the inconsistent hitting and pitching that have dogged them for much of the year. The Washington Nationals have a great lineup and rotation but have made only half-measure fixes to one of baseball’s worst bullpens.
It was impossible to have this much confidence in recent Dodgers teams. They were always good but always flawed, with a typical problem being an over-reliance on their stars.
This year’s Dodgers haven’t had that problem, and indeed have had few problems in general.
And on Monday, they set themselves up to remain problem-free all the way to the World Series.
via Bleacher Report – Front Page http://ift.tt/yO6Sgr
July 31, 2017 at 04:34PM