After a forgettable season last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers have jumped out to an impressive 18-10 record and currently sit in first place in the National League West. Matt Kemp has picked up right where he left off last season and will most likely be a finalist once again for the National League MVP. Clayton Kershaw, the reigning Cy Young award winner, has continued to impress, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.63 ERA in six appearances thus far. The production of these two players along with the progress of the rest of the team has propelled the Dodgers to the top of many MLB power rankings. While the Dodgers have been impressive in the early season, I would be cautious to believe that the team will be at the top of the power rankings at the end of the year.
The Dodgers have benefited from a favorable schedule to this point in the season. Of the team’s first 28 games, 22 have been against teams with a record below .500. Since it is early in the season, I understand that some of the teams the Dodgers have faced are only a few games below .500, so this stat may appear misleading. With that being said, the reality is that many of the Dodgers’ wins have come against teams that are not going to be in the playoff hunt late in the season, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, and San Diego Padres. In fact, the team has had the advantage of playing seven games, and earning six victories, against the last-place San Diego Padres. The schedule also shows that the team plays better at home than on the road. The Dodgers are 10-2 at home and 8-8 on the road. Most recently, the team went 2-4 on a six-game road trip that included two series against the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs. In order to remain atop the division, the team will have to play better on the road.
The Dodgers play in a wide-open National League West with three teams having a legitimate shot at winning the division. Looking at the rest of the schedule, the Dodgers will face their division rivals many times throughout the season. Therefore, the Dodgers will not have as challenging a schedule as a team such as the Baltimore Orioles, that play in the American League East, and will have the opportunity to take the NL West. However, the Dodgers will be competing with a strong, experienced pitching staff from the San Francisco Giants and a strong offense from the Arizona Diamondbacks as well as a Colorado Rockies team that has shown the ability to get hot during the second half of the season. So while the Dodgers have a legitimate chance to win the division, they do not have the talent to simply run away from these other teams.
The truth is that the Dodgers have talent. The team has one of the best starting pitchers in the league and arguably the best all-around player in the league. In addition, the team has a player that can get very hot throughout the season in Andre Ethier and a young, speedy shortstop in Dee Gordon. Finally, the starting pitchers behind Kershaw, such as Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano, have been outstanding in the first month of the season. However, that team also has flaws. The offense has gaps and the team will need more production from players like Dee Gordon and James Loney. The depth of the starting pitching is concerning because Aaron Harang has struggled and Chris Capuano has a losing career record. In addition, the team has struggled to win games in late innings, especially since the second half of April. Closer Javy Guerra has blown multiple saves to go along with a 1-3 record and a 5.84 ERA. Playing in tight games against division rivals, the Dodgers will need better pitching in the late innings.
The truth is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are a good team with the potential to make the playoffs, especially with the addition of another wildcard spot this season. With the combination of injuries and off-the-field issues last season, the team struggled to remain a playoff contender. The early success this season has been quite a turnaround from last year, but the Dodgers still have flaws. While the team will be in the playoff hunt in September, let’s wait and see exactly what we have with the Los Angeles Dodgers.