It’s been 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series. But for the past half decade they’ve been knocking at the door having averaged 94 wins per year and winning six consecutive division titles; they’ve reached the NLCS in three consecutive seasons; and were painfully close to snapping the championship drought the past two years, losing two consecutive World Series: Houston in 7 games and the Red Sox in 5 games.
The Dodgers (15-9) enter Tuesday’s series at Wrigley Field with the best record in the National League … winners of 7 of their past 8 games … having scored the most runs (136) in the NL … The pitching staff is second in the NL in avg. against (.231) and strikeouts (209).
Dave Roberts is in his fourth season as the Dodgers manager and signed a 4-yr contract extension in the offseason … He was the first skipper in Dodgers history to lead the club to the postseason in his first three seasons … Won the NL Manager of the Year Award in 2016 and finished second in the voting in 2017. Roberts has been staunchly loyal, perhaps to a fault, to an analytics approach to his (or the front office’s) daily lineups … no manager called for a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement more often than Roberts did in 2018.
Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Yasmani Grandal.
During the past three seasons Clayton Kershaw has averaged 25 starts and 162 innings … his fastball tops out in the low 90s, and the past two years he’s been prone to allowing the long ball (40).
The Dodgers have an ace-in-the-making in Walker Buehler and three established starters to round out the rotation: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda & Rich Hill (Hill’s nearing a return from an MCL strain) … 2018 All-Star Ross Stripling is a solid swing-man … as is former top prospect, Julio Urias, who has successfully returned from shoulder surgery to start four games (19.2 IP, 3.66 ERA).
Kenley Jansen converted 38/42 save opportunities last year … but also allowed the most HR of any NL reliever (13) … this season he’s 7/8 in saves and has allowed 2 HR in 11.2 IP … free agent Joe Kelly was signed to a 3-yr deal in the offseason to support Jansen … Pedro Baez and former Cub, Dylan Florio, anchor the middle relief innings.
Cody Bellinger, 23, is having a season for the record books. Through the opening two months, he’s hit 11 home runs and knocked in 28 RBI … He leads the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS … and leads the NL in on-base percentage … he took Josh Hader deep in Milwaukee last week … and for good measure, he’s capable of winning a Gold Glove at first base or right field. Bellinger is a one-man wrecking crew and a clear-cut front-runner to win the NL’s MVP Award.
Justin Turner, 34, recovered from a fractured left wrist last spring to post MVP-level numbers in the second half. He’s slumped much of this season (.260, 0 HR, 8 RBI), and is currently in a 1-for-14 skid with 5 strikeouts.
Max Muncy led the club last season in HR (35), slugging, OPS and OPS+ …
This year: .233 avg., 5 HR, 14 RBI.
Had Corey Seager not succumbed to both Tommy John and hip surgeries last May, Manny Machado to the Dodgers may not have come to fruition in July.
Although Seager is back to full-time duties, he’s off to a somewhat expected slow start offensively: .265 avg, 2 HR, 7 RBI … at least, slow for a player who won the NL’s Silver Slugger Award at shortstop his first two seasons.
THE COST OF WINNING
The Dodgers have experienced significant turnover in the front office and coaching staff the past two years. Former GM, Farhan Zaidi, now runs baseball operations for the rival Giants; hitting coach Turner Ward departed for Cincinnati; and former third base coach Chris Woodward is in his first season skippering the Rangers … Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, however, is back for his 14th season.
Mark Prior is in his third season as the Dodgers bullpen coach …
Former Cubs catcher (2018), Chris Gimenez, is a first-year game planning coach …
Brant Brown (Cubs OF: 1996-98, 2000) is in his second season as a hitting coach.
Dodger Stadium will host the 2020 All Star Game … It will mark the third midsummer classic to be hosted in Dodgers history, and the second ever at Dodger Stadium.