Why the Los Angeles Dodgers Will be the NL West Champions
The National League West is the closest divisional race in baseball, just two and a half games separate the first-place Colorado Rockies and the third-place Arizona Diamondbacks. It has been a division that has been difficult to predict a winner all season – according to FanGraphs, it’s the only division in baseball that hasn’t had a team with a 75% chance to win the division since April 4, a week into the year. The Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Dbacks have been battling for the division all season and will likely go down to the wire for the NL West crown. They sit half a game back of the Rockies after beating them 9-6 Sunday, but the Dodgers have a decided advantage in this race and will be the NL West winners for three reasons.
They’re Finally Healthy
The Dodgers have been a medical staff’s nightmare this season. They’ve had a league-high 38 total disabled list stints and according to Roster Resource have had the fourth-highest roster effect rating as a result. Comparatively, the Diamondbacks have had 17 DL stints coupled with the 12 ranked roster-effect rating, and the Rockies have been the healthiest of the three with more total DL stints (21) but the lowest roster effect rating of any team in baseball. Injuries to key pieces Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, and Yasiel Puig put the Dodgers behind the figurative eight-ball early on, but now they are the healthiest they’ve been all season. Los Angeles hit rock-bottom on May 16 after a 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins when they fell to 16-26, but have bounced back from that horrendous start through the first month and a half of the season and have gone 61-39 since. With the team returning to full-strength minus Seager – who they’ve upgraded to Manny Machado – the Dodgers have shown why they are the class of the division.
Strength of Schedule
The Dodgers have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league according to Baseball Prospectus, their remaining opponents have just a .489 winning percentage on the season. The Rockies and Dbacks have the third and fourth toughest schedules remaining, their opponent winning percentages are much higher at .545 and .548, respectively. While both of the competitors have more games at home than the Dodgers the rest of the way, Los Angeles will face an easier schedule and rank higher in away winning percentage than they do in home winning percentage — they have the sixth-best road record versus the 19 ranked home record. While they still have a key divisional series with both the Rockies and Diamondbacks remaining, the rest of their schedule is filled out with the likes of the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants. They have a four-game series on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals that will be a challenge, but the Dodgers will be looking for revenge against the Cards — who swept them in Los Angeles in late August.
Most Talented Team
There’s a reason this group went to and came so close to winning the World Series last year. From the rotation to the line-up to the depth, the Dodgers came into the season as one of the most talented teams in baseball, and their odds to win the World Series reflected that talent. They trailed only the Champion Houston Astros as the odds-on favorite to win the 2018 World Series going into the season, but by the fateful May 9, had dropped to the eighth best odds. But as they have gotten healthy — and gone ahead and added one of, if not the best shortstops in baseball – Los Angeles has re-established themselves as the most talented team in the NL West and potentially the entire National League. They’ve hit an NL-leading 198 home runs — 10 more than the next closest team – are tied for the highest slugging percentage in the National League, and have the third-highest team WAR in the entire league.
Los Angeles is more than a win-and-a-half better than both Arizona and Colorado to go along with having the best run-differential by more than 40 runs. The Dodgers are simply the best team in this division and the 162 game schedule of the MLB has given them the opportunity to show it over the course of the entire season.