The Los Angeles Dodgers are putting together a historic season in 2017. They currently sit at 80-33 and are on pace to win 114 games to close out the season. Since 1913, the Dodgers are just the sixth team to reach the 80-win mark in its first 113 games. This begs the question, are the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers the best team ever?
Let’s start with the obvious, the pitching. Dodgers pitching has been far and away the best in baseball throughout the season. The staff leads baseball in ERA (3.08), opposing batting average (.223) and WHIP (1.11). A case can be made that either one of their top two starters deserves Cy Young consideration. Clayton Kershaw has been, well, Clayton Kershaw, working to a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 168 strikeouts. Alex Wood has returned to form from earlier in his career, posting career highs in ERA (2.37), WHIP (1.02) and wins (14).
There’s not much of a drop off after Kershaw and Wood, either. Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill have all been impressive all year long. None have an ERA above 3.85 and all have shown that they can pitch deep into games.
Oh, they also added some rotation help in the last seconds before the trade deadline. Someone by the name of Yu Darvish. He needs no introduction, as he was putting together a great season with the Texas Rangers before heading to Los Angeles. In his Dodgers debut, Darvish threw seven scoreless innings, allowed just three hits, a walk, and struck out ten. Darvish slots in as yet another ace-like arm at the top of the rotation that makes the Dodgers an even scarier force down the stretch.
While the starting rotation has given the team depth, there hasn’t been an urgency day in and day out to do so. The bullpen has been lights out as well, led by Kenley Jansen. Jansen has been one, if not the most, dominant closer in baseball this year, collecting 29 saves and posting a 1.28 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and a 14.05 K/9. He’s been absolutely lights out and provides a sense of comfort heading into the ninth.
Before Jansen, the Dodgers have the likes of Pedro Baez, Luis Avilan, Josh Fields and Ross Stripling getting the game to the ninth. They also acquired Tony Watson at the deadline, who was previously closing games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve all been successful in their own right this season and help make up one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Dominant starting pitching and depth? Check. Lights out bullpen? Check. So, what about the Dodgers’ offense? Yeah, that’s good too.
Reigning Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager, and this year’s favorite, Cody Bellinger, have led the Dodgers on their historic run. Bellinger has amazed at the plate with 33 homers and 76 RBI since making his debut back on April 25. Seager, Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig are having solid seasons as well, while Justin Turner is leading the team with a .348 average and .441 OBP.
The Dodgers are good. Like, really good, but do they have the ability to win a championship and put them in consideration of being the best team ever? Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they’ve built up the person of that team over the years. They’ve constantly made it deep into the postseason but have failed to have it amount to a championship. Dominant and even historic regular seasons are great, but what truly matters is what happens in October.
You wouldn’t know by looking at their last 23 games, they’ve lost just two since the All-Star break, but the Dodgers have lost some depth in their rotation. Kershaw has been out since late July and doesn’t have a timetable for his return, while McCarthy and Hill have both been dealing with blisters for much of the season. It doesn’t put their playoff chances in any danger, but heading into October without their ace will play huge into their success.
They’ll need to go 36-13 down the stretch to challenge the 2001 Seattle Mariners’ all-time single season record. Doing that, even without Kershaw, isn’t out of the question. However, they’ll hope to have better success in October than the 2001 Mariners did.
The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers’ legacy resides in how they do when the calendar turns to October. They’re without a doubt the best regular season team we’ve seen in years and hopefully, that’s not all they are. They truly have the potential to be one of the best teams in baseball history and it’ll be exciting to see what they can do down the stretch.