The Los Angeles Dodgers Championship Drought Will Be Broken
Los Angeles Dodgers fans know all too well that the 30 year mark is fast approaching since Tommy Lasorda’s crew shocked the baseball world by beating the smash-brothers version of the Oakland Athletics in a five game heart stopper in 1988. This year’s squad may be the most resilient and ready Dodgers team to accomplish the task.
Clayton Kershaw’s Injury May be a Blessing
Dodgers starting pitcher Kershaw seems well recovered from his herniated disk back injury. How this plays into the future is always a concern as back injuries tend to linger and Kershaw, now 28, has a lot of innings behind him in his almost certain to be Hall of Fame career. For this 2016 Major League Baseball playoff run, his 10 week layoff might actually help both himself and the Dodgers as they prepare for their tough opening round match-up with the Washington Nationals.
Kershaw, as all of Dodger Nation is aware, has had his struggles in previous Octobers and the pundits have always wondered why or how this has been the case. As a pitcher who always eats a lot of innings, one theory has been that his arm has worn out come playoff time over the past few seasons. Averaging over 215 innings pitched since 2010, his 149 innings this season pale in comparison and this could be a blessing in disguise as the post season gets ready to amplify once again. A lively arm from Kershaw usually spells doom and gloom for the opposition and we will all know soon how this plays out. The greatest regular season pitcher in MLB over the past decade needs to exorcise his playoff demons, and now a healthy and fresh Kershaw has everything lined up to do just that.
The Offense Took the Bull by the Horns in Kershaw’s Absence
The one other thing we learned during the dog days of this long marathon of the MLB regular season is that the Dodgers can hit. In fact, perhaps coincidentally, over that two and a half month period without Kershaw, their hitting actually carried this perennially pitching heavy club. Whether it’s Justin Turner, Rookie of the Year favorite Corey Seager or Adrian Gonzalez, it has been a next man up scenario, and picking an offensive most valuable player would be tough. From the lead-off spot through the eight hole, this Los Angeles squad has a nice blend of hitters and selective pitch takers who are willing to walk or sacrifice to leave it up to the next man in line.
The re-addition of the often maligned outfielder Yasiel Puig in September seems to have worked well for Manager Dave Roberts, who has had a marvelous rookie season as the Dodgers skipper. Add to that the potential pinch hitting duties of just returning outfielder Andre Ethier and it would not be so far-fetched to call this an offense to be reckoned with.
The Starting Pitching is Deeper this Post Season
It certainly comes to reason that Rich Hill, the 36 year old mid-season acquisition from Oakland, is not at the level of the previous number two LA starter, Zack Greinke. Hill however fits in comfortably behind Kershaw and is such a vast change of pace even though they both throw from the southpaw side. Kenta Maeda and his 16-11 win-loss record as a 28 year-old rookie from Japan has at least met and most probably exceeded expectations in his inaugural year in America with an ERA at a very respectable 3.48. Maeda is the only right handed starter on the playoff rotation as things stand now.
Roberts has options if and when he needs to run a fourth starter out on the mound but everything would seem to be pointing to 20-year old phenomenon rookie Mexican pitcher Julio Urias. Urias leans the rotation a little heavy on lefties but he has shown signs of brilliance at various times this campaign.
Baez Followed by Jansen is a Lethal Way to Close Out Games
The two big boys at the back of the bullpen may hold the ace up their sleeves in the Dodgers latest attempt to bring another title to the City of Angels. LA closer Kenley Jansen has once again struck fear into 9th inning hitters who dare to step into the batter’s box against the 270 lb right hander. His 47 saves and ridiculously good ERA of 1.78 speak volumes about his qualifications to hold leads and finish off games. He is getting better and better which is scary for the opposition because he was already a top 5 closer in baseball two years ago. The performance of set up man Pedro Baez has been more surprising to be sure but just as effective in many ways. Dodgers starters now know if they can get through six or seven innings, the two-headed monster that the Baez-Jansen combination has become should be enough to win most every time.
Throw in former starter and now the middle inning go-to guy Joe Blanton and the Dodgers bullpen have the ability to turn a sixth inning lead into victories as well as any team in the post season party.
Sounds Great, But Can They Win it All?
Yes. The Chicago Cubs are the team to beat in both the National League and in MLB. They also have the most pressure on them. They won 103 games this season and are trying to erase a 108 year jinx of not winning a World Series title (Dodgers have 80 years before they reach that ineptitude). The Dodgers have been favored before and not succeeded. Under the radar will suit them well this go-round and because of the above mentioned attributes of this 2016 roster, the time has come to shake, rattle and roll the baseball world and bring a sixth title to Chavez Ravine. Enjoy the ride.