World Series Preview
It’s already been discussed in this space that the Red Sox are good. Very, very good. Even better than most people realized if we’re being candid. If you want to eye roll and groan some more, consider that the 2018 Astros can make a legitimate claim to have had the best pitching staff in baseball history and the Red Sox just scored 29 runs in five games against them. (Wipes sweat off brow…)
But if you’re a Boston hater*, I have good news for you: Today we’re going to talk about the Dodgers. Specifically how the Dodgers are a much better team than you think they are. I know they’re better than I gave them credit for up until very recently.
I’m of the mind that a team that wins 91** regular season games is a very good, but far from great team, and that a 4-3 seven-game series win against a similarly abled team wouldn’t change my mind. But those numbers only tell part of the story, as the Dodgers are much better that suggests. They might actually be as good as…wait for it…the Red Sox. (James Taylor clutches pearls…)
Let’s start with the record: The Dodgers were without Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado for various chunks of the season. All are presently accounted for and performing up to expectations, which needless to say, are seriously high expectations.
Additionally, the Dodgers run differential suggests a 102 win regular season – that’s with the aforementioned absences. With all four healthy and playing well, you can suggest the Dodgers are as good as the 108 win Sawx. As a slight parenthetical note, when a team’s actual record is much worse than their run differential should suggest, it generally means one of two things: A) The manager makes awful in-game decisions in close games (See; Girardi, Joe – 2017), or B) A lot of randomness went against the team. We know Dave Roberts can manage, so I’m going with “B”.
The Dodgers, my friends, can put runs on the board. They led the NL in runs scored, SLG %, BB% and had the lowest chase rate this season. They finished 2nd in team OBP (by two points – full seasons with Turner and Machado would’ve given them first there as well) and were 3rd best in both taking extra bases and overall base running.
The Dodgers have eight – eight – regulars with an OPS+ of 120 or higher. That’s the most by any NL team since integration. Let’s review: 100 is league average with OPS+, so LA has eight players who are at least 20% better than league average hitters. That is a very deep lineup and bench to navigate. Again, as an interesting side note, one of those eight is Yasmani Grandal with an OPS+ of 121. I’m looking forward to seeing how Dave Roberts weighs and handles the situation: Does he hold Grandal on the bench for pinch hitting opportunities, or does he put a circus tent behind home plate for when Grandal straps on the tools of ignorance?
What about the Dodgers’ pitching? Again, we just reviewed what Boston did to Houston’s pitching staff, but recall that once a batted ball is in play randomness is the biggest factor in what happens. Pitchers typically can control missing bats (or not), issuing walks (or not) and keeping the ball in the park (or not).
How are the Dodgers in those areas? They were a league best in both K%-BB% and ground ball rate.
Horse dead. Kicks anyway: Boston is a great team. Seven game series’ don’t tell you much as there’s way too much randomness going on in such a short period of time – and seven games is a sneeze in baseball time. It’s not quite a coin flip, but it’ll do until the coin arrives.
But the Dodgers are a great team, far better than they’ve been given credit for. So I’m of the mind that people suggesting Boston in four or five have missed something. I say Dodgers in seven.
And by the ghost of Bob Stanley, I hope I’m right.
*I use “Boston hater” somewhat facetiously. I never understood “hating” the other guys. Why not just root for one team instead of hating another?
**92 if you count game 163.
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