8 reasons why 2017 is Dodgers' year
Los Angeles on pace for historic number of wins
The Dodgers (64-29) are on a pace to win more games than any National League team in 111 years. Actually, they might be better than that.
Historical comparisons are risky. They're interesting, but it's never clear what we're supposed to learn from them. Besides, for the Dodgers, the ultimate story of this season will be written in October.
But that shouldn't keep us from appreciating what we're seeing, which is baseball played at about as high a level as humanly possible. Their pitching staff is baseball's best (3.12 ERA). Only the Nationals have scored more runs in the NL.
The Dodgers are a joy to watch, and they clearly feed off one another. As rookie Cody Bellinger said, "Good vibes everywhere." Those vibes are easy to come by when there's production and playing time from every corner of the clubhouse. Their stars are contributing at a high level, but plenty of others have chipped in as well.
Some numbers: The 2001 Mariners hold the modern Major League record by going 116-46. The 1906 Cubs hold the NL mark of 116-36.
At 64-29, the Dodgers are winning at a .688 clip, which translates to a 112-50 finish. Only thing is, that's not the team that'll be playing the White Sox in Chicago tonight.
The Dodgers were 10-12 on April 26. They're 54-17 since. There are smaller breakdowns, too: 42-11, 29-4, 9-0.
Bellinger did not make his debut until April 25. The Dodgers are 54-16 with him in the lineup.
And back in April, third baseman Justin Turner had not yet spent three weeks on the disabled list. They are 25-4 since his return.
Turner and Bellinger together? The Dodgers are 36-9 when manager Dave Roberts pencils both onto his lineup card.
Again, this story won't be written until October. When a team is on its way to a fifth straight division championship and has the history of the Dodgers, it's about winning World Series championships -- which they haven't done since 1988.
Here are eight reasons to believe this is the year:
1. The Dodgers do not have one NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate. They have three of them: shortstop Corey Seager, Turner and Bellinger. Turner is batting .374 and seemingly on his way to a batting title. Bellinger has 26 home runs in 73 games and appears to be a slam dunk for NL Rookie of the Year Award, if not more.
Seager established himself has one of the NL's five best players last season when he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and finished third in the NL MVP Award voting. Some of his toughest competition for MVP votes this year may come from inside his own clubhouse.
- Clayton Kershaw makes his 20th start of the season on Tuesday against the White Sox. Midway through his 10th season, he might make the Hall of Fame without throwing another pitch -- he has a 2.35 ERA (23rd all-time) and a 0.998 WHIP (second all-time). In his past four starts, he has been scored upon twice (0.62 ERA, five walks, 44 strikeouts in 29 innnings). This stretch coincides with the start of a debate about Max Scherzer maybe having a better season than Kershaw. For all Kershaw's accomplishments, he has not been a dominant October pitcher. It would be a mistake to doubt him.
3. Outfielder Yasiel Puig is pretty good after all. He doesn't get many of the headlines anymore, and let's face it, some of those were for the wrong reason. Instead, Puig has turned out to be exactly what the Dodgers hoped he'd be: a contributor on a winning team. He has 18 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .797 OPS.
- Pitching depth -- Alex Wood (11-0, 1.56 ERA) is an All-Star, and Rich Hill and Brandon McCarthy have been solid. Best of all, there's enough depth that manager Dave Roberts can mix and match Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu and allow for rest. A big division lead should have everyone tanned, rested and ready for October.
5. Who are Austin Barnes, Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor, and why do they matter? All of them play. All of them contribute. When teams have special seasons, they always look back and see that they've gotten contributions from places they hoped for, but didn't count on. The Dodgers have gotten a long list of those.
6. They may get better. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has done a brilliant job, not just in constructing a 64-29 Major League roster, but in building one of the deepest farm system the Dodgers have ever had. That means Friedman has the chips to strengthen his team by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. A's starter Sonny Gray and Padres lefty reliever Brad Hand are on his shopping list.
- Free agents? What free agents? The Dodgers re-signed three important ones -- Hill, Turner and closer Kenley Jansen -- last offseason. All three have played a critical role in a 64-29 start. Jansen has converted 23 straight save chances and has a microscopic 0.575 WHIP (24 baserunners in 40 innings).
8. Roberts sometimes gets overshadowed by the star power. He shouldn't. Roberts has that magical touch that the best managers have. His players respect him, but they also like him and know everything he does is what he believes is in the best interests of the team.