Forget that John Forsythe hasn't hit 70 home runs over the past two seasons. He's not quite as dangerous of a hitter as James Dozier.Luckily for the Dodgers, Forsythe doesn't have to be to count as a tipping point in the National League's analytic balance of power.According to FanGraphs, the
Forget that John Forsythe hasn't hit 70 home runs over the past two seasons. He's not quite as dangerous of a hitter as James Dozier.
Luckily for the Dodgers, Forsythe doesn't have to be to count as a tipping point in the National League's analytic balance of power.
According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers moved past the Cubs when they imported Forsythe to fill their second-base void. Forsythe is projected to be a two-win player, and with him in the mix, FanGraphs has the Dodgers down for 95 wins next season, one more than the Cubs.
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This projection goes against conventional wisdom, of course.
From here, it's hard to see why the Cubs would win six fewer games in 2017 than the 100 they averaged in '15 and '16.
The Cubs lost William Fowler but gain back Kyle Schwarber -- not to mention a full season of Willson Contreras as their primary catcher. They'll have Wade Davis for the full ride as their closer, so there's probably no need to cast a dragnet in late July.
There's a lot to like about the defending champs, who had the youngest group of regulars to win a World Series since the 1969 Mets. But with Forsythe in the mix, algorithms say the Dodgers have emerged as co-favorites.
That's fair. The Dodgers are loaded, both at the Major and Minor League levels. They're extremely well run behind president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts. They're the only team in the Majors that has Clayton Kershaw, and following his NL Rookie of the Year Award-winning campaign, Corey Seager seems like he's going to be a perennial NL MVP Award candidate.
The Dodgers just showed the resiliency to advance to Game 6 of the NL Championship Series in a season when injuries forced them to use 15 starting pitchers (with Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir the only ones to make more than 21 starts). Their rotation was a mess in October, which was the biggest difference between them and the Cubs.
It's impossible to overlook how the Cubs are a powerhouse with the potential to become the first real year-to-year dynasty since the 1996-2001 Yankees. Yet let's take a step backward and look at that remarkable run through the postseason last fall.
Against the Giants: Three of four games were one-run affairs, and it appeared the teams were headed back to Chicago for a decisive Game 5 until the Cubs overcame a 5-2 deficit in the ninth inning of Game 4. Safe to say the Cubs wanted no part of Johnny Cueto, whom Jonathan Lester had beaten, 1-0, in the NL Division Series opener, on an eighth-inning Javier Baez homer that just made it into the left-field basket.
Against the Dodgers: The Cubs escaped a 2-1 deficit in the NLCS by winning the last three games of the series. But after they'd evened it 2-2 with a blowout win in Game 4, they were tied with the Dodgers at 2 in the eighth inning of Game 5.
Against the Indians: It's hard to forget the details of the comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series. But as clutch as guys like Benjamin Zobrist and Kristopher Bryant were in Game 7, the difference between the Cubs and Indians was that while Joe Maddon had his top four starters healthy, Terry Francona couldn't start Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar. Who knows how this would have come out if Carrasco were there to offset Jacob Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks?
There's so much that can't be predicted with any accuracy, including injuries and the rising and falling tides of player performance. Could the Cubs again put away the NL Central early in 2017 and then roll through the postseason more easily than in '16? Or could this be when they find themselves like the Indians and Dodgers, forced to improvise in games that mean the most?
"The primary reason why it's hard to repeat is just because it's really hard to win the World Series,'' Theo Epstein said. "In any given year, if you're any old team, you might have a 3 percent chance. If you're the best [team], you might have a 10 to 12 percent chance. It's just hard to do.''
Ten to 12 percent chance? That's underselling it, for sure.
The Yankees taught us that by going 56-22 in postseason games from 1996 through 2001. They won 14 of 16 series in those six years, and both of the series they dropped went to the deciding game (1997 American League Division Series against the Indians, 2001 World Series against the D-backs). That's what a dynasty can do in October.
But can the Cubs grow into a true dynasty in an NL landscape that includes the Dodgers (not to mention the Nationals, Giants and Cardinals)?
While Kershaw is the biggest difference-maker, the Cubs get the rotation edge -- although the upside of Julio Urias and Rich Hill suggests this may not always be so. The Dodgers' bullpen isn't as deep as the Cubs' bullpen either -- another edge, Cubs -- but Friedman is going to continue looking for ways to build behind Kenley Jansen.
The Cubs and Dodgers feature the two best infields in the game, but the Baez/Zobrist overlap again provides a depth edge to the Cubs. A case can be made for both outfields to be either very good or All-Star free. Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig give the Dodgers two guys with the upside the Cubs have in Schwarber, so this is advantage Dodgers (at least until the Cubs have replaced Fowler and removed Jason Heyward from easy-out status.
Fans won't have to wait long to see these two teams on the same field. The Dodgers are the Cubs' first home opponent this season, meaning Kershaw and teammates can witness a celebration of the championship they could have won.
The schedule suggests Kershaw won't pitch in the series, unfortunately. He could if Roberts skips his fifth starter the second time through the rotation -- but he kept his pitchers in order through April last year.
A game on April 13 doesn't have the same intensity as a game in October. But it'll be fun to see how the NL's two best teams stack up against each other then, won't it?
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.