The Los Angeles Dodgers were one game away in 2017. One game away from being World Series Champions is as close as they’ve been since 1988. Being one game away in baseball isn’t like other sports. After about 30 Spring Training games, 162 regular season games and about 20 postseason games, being one game away in baseball is not like being a game away in the NFL.
Can the Dodgers get one game better in 2018? They certainly have the talent. The unfortunate part is now they are about 200 games away. They are now in the same boat as the other 29 MLB teams. Back at Spring Training. Getting one game better is not easy. Ask any of the fans of the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians had it all going their way in 2017 after losing Game Seven of the 2016 World Series. They ran away with the American League Central Division and had the number one seed in the playoffs. They once won 22 straight games and looked to almost be a lock to get back to the Fall Classic. They even had a 2-0 lead in their best of five ALDS with the New York Yankees.
But as we all know, a three game losing streak can happen at any time in baseball, and that includes the postseason. One hit the Tribe at the worst possible time and before they knew what hit them, they were done.
The last time a team lost the World Series and then came back the fooling season to win it all was the Kansas City Royals who lost a Game Seven at home to the San Francisco Giants in 2014, then beat the New York Mets in five games in 2015. So that is some pretty recent history on the side of the Dodgers.
The New York Yankees would seem to be the preseason favorites in the American League after acquiring reigning MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the latest Miami Marlins going-out-of-business sale. With Stanton and Aaron Judge hitting back-to-back in the Yanks lineup, the names of Ruth and Gehrig and Mantle and Maris are coming to mind.
Like those other Yankee juggernauts, the lineup is also full of a ton of talent. Didi Gregorius is a stud at shortstop, Gary Sanchez looks like a great young catcher, and if first baseman Greg Bird can have a healthy season, the Yankees should be a strong bet to get to the Fall Classic.
Luckily, the Dodgers don’t have to worry about them until late October. As we all know, in a seven game series, great pitching can stop great hitting. The Dodgers have that in Clayton Kershaw and closer Kenley Jansen. But do guys like Rich Hill and Tom Koehler scare teams like the Yankees?
The Dodgers would look a whole lot better with another big time starter. Yu Darvish didn’t work out. He’d be great to have during the season, but he can’t be counted on in the postseason. For the money he will command in free agency, you want a guy who can win a big game.
World Series futures have the Yankees as the favorite at +500. The Vegas odds makers seem to have a ton of respect for the Dodgers though as they are tied with the defending champion Houston Astros at +600. So as far as National League teams go, the Dodgers are the odds on favorite to get to the Series in 2018. How great would that be? Is there any series better than a Yankees-Dodgers World Series? Not really.
The Indians are +750 and the next National League team would be the Washington National at +900. The Chicago Cubs are +1200 and the St. Louis Cardinals are +1800. So the Dodgers would seem to be a good bet to get to the Series.
But how would they stack up against the Yanks? At the trade deadline, they may want to add another good starting pitcher. Houston adding Justin Verlander sure did the trick for them last year.
So who might be available at the deadline? Matt Harvey could be on the market if the New York Mets fall behind in the playoff chase. We’ve seen Harvey pitch in the Fall Classic. He was a whole lot better than Darvish. Free agent Jake Arrieta could be pried away from the Cubbies too. He’d look great in Dodger Blue. With Kershaw and Arrieta as the 1-2 punch in a short series, the Dodgers would look pretty good against anyone.
The Dodgers young talent can rival the Yankees with Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. If Matt Kemp can produce like he did with the Atlanta Braves last year, he will bring some thump to the batting order. If Yasiel Puig can keep from reverting back to the unpredictable player he was before last season, with him and Kemp in the order with Seager and Bellinger, they should be able to score runs with anyone.
Justin Turner is a place where the Dodgers could slip a bit. He was so good last season, it would not be difficult to imagine him falling off this season. He could still have a very good year, but drop off from last year’s .322 batting average, 21 home runs and 71 RBIs. That was about thirty points higher than his career average.
But starting pitchers Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda should be able to suplicatre last year’s success. Maeda was 13-6 and Hill was 12-8 last year. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine one if not both of them even surpassing those numbers.
So what do the Dodgers need to do get one game better in 2018? Avoid injuries to their star players (of course every team can say that), keep Puig happy, and get a good number two starter. Do all of this and the Dodgers should be back in the World Series. If they can set up the rotation so Kershaw pitches in Game Seven, that should do it.