It’s been four consecutive years that the Los Angeles Dodgers have entered the postseason via the National League Western Division Championship. It’s also been four years that they didn’t even reach the World Series. Issues with the bullpen, and injuries to key players in the lineup, have been the hurdles the Dodgers have faced in the past.
With the exception of the rotation, though, the depth the Dodgers’ roster has this year in the bullpen, and in the lineup, gives them a much better chance in 2016.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2016 Postseason: The Bullpen
The Dodgers would lose in four games. Two of those games in which Clayton Kershaw would surrender the lead late in the game.
2015 showed slight improvement in the bullpen, moving the team’s bullpen ranking from 21st to ninth in the league, but not enough to give the Dodgers a competitive advantage in terms of relief pitching. The Dodgers would lose to the New York Mets in five games.
The 2016 Dodgers bullpen is a much different, story, though. Coming off the 2016 season, the Dodgers relief pitching ranks third overall in WAR, just behind the New York Mets and the Houston Astros, and lead the league in earned run average at 3.35. Led by Pedro Baez, a reinvented Joe Blanton, and closer Kenley Jansen,
If there is a downfall, it’s that the bullpen has been put to use this year. As MLB.com points out, the Dodgers’ bullpen won 39 games that starters pitched five innings or less. Additionally, the Dodgers led all teams in in relief innings pitched, with 590.2. The only other postseason team in the National League close the amount of relief innings pitched are the New York Mets, at 525.0, while the Nationals are at 499.2, the San Francisco Giants at 478, and the Chicago Cubs are at 470.2.
Lucky for the Dodgers, they have some starters they can turn to for relief, like Ross Stripling, who is expected to work from the bullpen for the postseason. Julio Urias has also been thrown around as a potential bullpen candidate.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2016 Postseason: The Bats
Corey Seager is no doubt the present and future of the Los Angeles Dodgers offensively, and may be receive MVP’s votes in addition to Rookie of the Year, but he certainly didn’t do it alone this year.
The Dodgers received a nice surprise in Andrew Toles, who was bagging groceries not too long ago. In 105 officials at bats, Toles carried .505 slugging percentage. Charlie Culberson, who was named to the Dodgers post season roster, has proven to be clutch off the bench.
Justin Turner, who many questioned batting as the cleanup hitter against the Mets of game 5 of the 2015 NLDS, tied Yasmani Grandal for the most home runs on the team this year with for home runs. Overall the Dodgers have four players with 20 plus home runs, and Turner leads the team with Adrian Gonzalez at 90 RBI’s. Overall, the Dodgers are 3rd in WAR offensively in the National League, at 25.3, and 5th in the Majors.
While the bullpen is the best it has been in years, and the lineup is consistently stacked, they do have some gaping flaws.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2016 Postseason: Rotation Woes and Can’t Hit Lefties
The Los Angeles Dodgers, haven’t had a consistent rotation all year. Unable to find a single replacement for Zack Greinke, and unable to have a fully healed Brett Anderson or Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers have made due using the likes of Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, a Tommy John recovered Brandon McCarthy, Ross Stripling, and Julio Urias to name a few. Yet, somehow, the Dodgers were able to clinch the division, even while missing Clayton Kershaw for a portion of the season.
The Dodgers are batting an atrocious .213 against left handers, ranked last in the majors. The Dodgers will face lefty Gio Gonzalez in the NLDS against the Nationals. If they are to advance past the Nationals, they will likely get to face lefty Jon Lester of the Chicago Cubs, assuming the Cubs get past either the Giants or the Mets.
The Dodgers may want to root for the rival Giants to meet them for an NLCS match-up. Of the left handed starters in the NL Playoffs, the Dodgers are batting an OK .256 against Madison Bumgarner, and the Dodgers know him better than any other pitcher.
They also know not to look at him.