Barring an epic collapse, the Dodgers will close September sitting atop their third consecutive National League West division title.
That much was cinched after their 8-2 push over the past 10 games, including the virtual knockout punch they delivered in a three-game sweep over the second-place San Francisco Giants.
It’s probably a bit too soon to lay down money on playoff tickets, but with an 8.5-game lead it wouldn’t hurt to start looking into New York City hotel rooms to support the Boys in Blue against the Mets in the National League Division Series.
So much for the good news.
Sorry, folks, it’s impossible to get too excited about this bunch beyond the inevitable champagne party they’ll throw in a few weeks celebrating another division championship.
They don’t match up well against the Mets, who can throw all kinds of young pitchers at the Dodgers to go with an offense producing better than any team in baseball.
And then there’s the Cardinals, who have made knocking the Dodgers out of the playoffs a fall tradition.
Considering the $300 million payroll, it should be World Series or bust.
But it most certainly isn’t.
And that’s kind of shocking.
Despite the outlandish money the Dodgers are shelling out, they still haven’t figured out a way to improve their postseason chances.
The same obvious, fixable issues that plagued them over their past two playoff appearances will likely be their downfall again.
Despite bringing in new leadership and vision last winter with the intent on getting over the playoff hump, they did anything but.
With a glaring pitching need behind aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers only added to the problem by acquiring veterans Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, both of whom arrived with injury issues and neither with any significant playoff experience.
McCarthy is out for the season after managing just 23 innings this year. Sadly it was almost predictable considering McCarthy had started 30 games just once over his previous nine seasons and been on the disabled list 11 times.
The Dodgers still owe him $38 million over the next three years.
Anderson, to his credit, has pitched effectively over his 158 innings by posting a 3.36 ERA. But he doesn’t get deep into games, and after pitching a combined 122.3 innings the previous three seasons, what can we realistically expect from him when the calendar flips to October and he has to find endurance and fuel he’s never had to tap into?
The Dodgers had two glaring needs last winter and at the trade deadline: Dependability behind Kershaw and Greinke and a reliable bullpen.
But as the postseason approaches, is there anyone you trust Don Mattingly to hand the ball to in the playoffs other and Kershaw and Greinke?
Anderson? Mat Latos? Alex Wood?
None of those guys elicits any sort of confidence in a critical playoff game.
How soon, then, before we start wondering if or when Kershaw and Greinke can pitch on short rest, as has been the typical postseason discussion?
For that matter, is there anyone you trust to bridge the gap between the seventh inning and closer Kenley Jansen?
Different year. Same exact problems
In fact, it’s probably worse now than before.
At least last year Hyun-jin Ryu was healthy and able to pitch Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals.
This year, it’s as murky behind Greinke and Kershaw as the events that led up to Deflategate.
The thing is, the Dodgers had a chance to negate all this angst last winter and in late July when quality arms with proven playoff track records were available as free agents and on the trade market.
And they had the money and prospects to make it happen.
But like an overly selective batter trying to work a pitcher, the Dodgers watched crushable fastballs cross the plate for strikes before hopelessly swinging at balls in the dirt when they fell behind in the count.
Instead of fixing the primary area that’s denied them longer playoff runs — high-end pitching! — new baseball operations leaders Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes felt it was more necessary to address middle defense. They traded soon-to-be All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon — and starting pitcher Dan Haren, mind you — to Miami in a deal that ultimately helped land them a new second baseman and shortstop in Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins.
The thinking being, by improving their run-prevention chances, they’d in turn help the pitching.
But you know what makes even more sense?
Hanging onto the still-improving Gordon and bringing in a pitcher capable of stuffing it down the Cardinals’ throats.
Cole Hamels, David Price, Johnny Cueto and James Shields were available and within the Dodgers’ reach.
Any of them would have looked lethal taking the mound in a playoff game.
But the Dodgers got too cute — or confident — and spit on fastballs right down Broadway.
Now I ask you, what would you rather have right now?
Better run-prevention defense or another ace-caliber starter?
Yeah, me too.
Different year. Same problems.
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