You can’t have a legit World Series discussion without talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As of Aug. 8, the Dodgers had the best record in all of baseball, at 75-33, for a .694 percentage. They were ahead of the New York Yankees and New York Mets, who both entered Aug. 8 at 70-39 (.642).
Dodgers backers already know there will be playoff baseball. They can leisurely spend the next two months speculating about how far the team will go in the postseason.
Nothing will change in the standings other than home-field advantage. LA is in the driver’s seat for that right now, currently enjoying an eight-game winning streak after a three-game sweep over the San Diego Padres.
With all that said, let’s dive into 10 reasons the Dodgers can win the World Series.
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Reasons 1-4: The Fab 4 — Armed and Extremely Dangerous
This pitching group is amazing.
The Dodgers, on Aug.1, had four pitchers with an ERA under 3.00 — starters Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, Julio Urias, and Clayton Kershaw. That’s practically unheard of, putting this team in the discussion of greatest one-season pitching staffs.
My criteria for this distinction is at least four pitchers in one rotation with an ERA under 3.00. Some of the most elite staffs could not master the feat. Even the fabled 1966 Dodgers of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen, and Don Sutton didn’t do it.
The only one I found in various lists was the 1972 Oakland A’s, with five pitchers — Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Blue Moon Odom, Vida Blue, and Dave Hamilton — all coming in below 3.00. They combined to propel the A’s to the first of three consecutive World Series championships.
Now here come these Dodgers, with a breakout corps of stars.
Their top four starters are 44-11 combined. Not only do all the starters have an ERA under 3.00, but a WHIP (baserunners allowed per inning) at or under 1.00. Suddenly there are very few walks and cheap runs allowed.
The outright shocker of the group. The argument in favor of Dodgers pitching magic. He’s 13-1.
Anderson’s been a pro since 2016 and played for the Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Pittsburgh Pirates, prior to becoming a Dodger.
His past ERAs read like a bad dream: 4.81, 4.55, 11.76, 4.81 again.
But last year, the Dodgers must have seen some potential when Anderson had a 1.31 WHIP. Because this year, he’s 13-1 with 97 strikeouts in 122.1 innings, a career-first sub 3.00 ERA at 2.72, and 1.00 WHIP.
What a find for the Dodgers. He’s been a magical ingredient. Anderson never won more than seven games in one season before this year.
He entered Aug. 8 at 11-6. His ERA was 2.57, his WHIP was 0.99. He had pitched 115.2 innings and delivered 109 strikeouts.
The Dodgers had been waiting on a big season from him. This looks like the year they’ll get it.
Gonsolin entered Aug. 8 at 13-1. His ERA is 2.30, the WHIP is microscopic at 0.89, and he has 102 strikeouts in 109.2 innings.
Pretty darn good for another guy the Dodgers had been waiting for the past three or four seasons. Their faith has been rewarded. Gonsolin leads the majors with lowest hits per nine innings allowed, 5.663.
Gonsolin and Anderson are 26-2 between them.
— Dodger Poke Report (@dodger_poke) August 2, 2022
And how about the elder statesman of this group?
Future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw has been a Dodgers star since 2009. For five straight seasons, 2013-17, he had a WHIP below 1.00. He has achieved the feat eight times in his career and is vying for the ninth.
Quick, who is the last player to win the Cy Young Award and the MVP in the same season? You selected right if you said Kershaw in 2014. He’s also the third Dodger to do that, joining Don Newcombe in 1956 and Koufax in 1963.
The Kershaw Cushion is a reflection of how deep the Dodgers staff is. He’s normally counted on to carry the load as the ace.
This year he has 88 strikeouts in 85.1 innings, another WHIP under 1.00, at 0.98 and an ERA of 2.64. And he is 7-3.
Unfortunately for LA, Kershaw has landed on the 15-day IL with lower back pain. An X-ray and MRI showed nothing too troubling, and the Dodgers are confident Kershaw will return this season. When, however, remains to be seen.
As a wild card, Walker Buehler sits below this group. If he comes back from rehab on his elbow and shows any of his 16-4, 2.47 ERA form from 2021, a deep staff gets even deeper.
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5. The Killer Instinct
Just look what happened in the all-important four-game series against the San Francisco Giants out of the break.
The Dodgers trailed 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth. And they put up a four-spot to win.
In the second game, another four-spot in the eighth.
In the third game, it was a three-run seventh.
And in the fourth game, they got ahead and never looked back.
A four-game sweep against their rivals, whom they face again in early August. Championship teams score bunches of runs late.
6. Production Where You Least Expect
Catcher Will Smith entered Aug. 8 with 16 homers and 59 RBI. He could approach 75 RBI as a backstop. Smith even hits cleanup sometimes. He’s a big find.
Trea Turner is a guy they picked up for the second half run last year and he hit .338. In a full season, he entered Aug. 8 with 18 homers and 77 RBI. Out of the 2-hole, no less. Turner was among the league leaders in RBI at the break, although he’s fallen off since.
But what did his RBI stature suggest?
7. The Dodgers Are Strong at THE BOTTOM of the Order
You can bat a Cody Bellinger eighth? He’s been slumping this year, but in past seasons he’s had home run totals of 39 and 47. The Dodgers can carry him in the eighth spot and he’ll possibly exceed 20 home runs from there. That’s a lot of muscle from that spot in the order.
Ninth-place hitters have been productive all year long, as well.
Is there an automatic out on this team? No. The Dodgers lead the National League in runs scored, 571, through Aug. 8.
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8. Betting on Mookie Betts
All these home runs from a leadoff hitter. He can steal. He can hit for average. Power, too. Betts had 25 homers as of Aug. 8. He might exceed 30 dingers from the leadoff position, which is incredible.
Betts and Turner up top set the stage for another lethal bat.
— MLB (@MLB) August 3, 2022
9. Freddie Freeman Cleans Up
Nothing wrong with 71 RBI entering Aug. 8, still on pace for more than 100 by season’s end. He has an excellent batting average of .324 and is not only one of the most consistent players in the game, but has one of the best eyes. He’s drawn 52 walks so far.
10. Can Craig Kimbrel Close It Out?
That could be the major question mark. Craig Kimbrel has been up and down as a closer. He can be dominant. He can also get too much of the plate with a pitch that doesn’t have movement.
One can assume that in playoff games against the likes of the Mets or Yankees, this will weigh heavily. The closer position is not a lock in the plus department for this team.
Other than that, Dodger fans can enjoy the remaining schedule, knowing that October is still baseball season.