As baseball season sits waiting around the corner, and top-tier free agents continue wait to be signed, many have waited to make their predictions on how the season can unfold for a myriad of teams. But one thing many agree on no matter where the remaining superstars sign is that the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to win the National League West by a wide margin. With their mix of young talent, surprisingly clutch veterans, and high-quality managerial decisions, it’s hard to argue that the Dodgers won’t end at the top of their division, especially considering the quiet offseason of their division rivals.
However, in the grand scheme of things, finishing atop the division isn’t the goal of a high-caliber team like the Dodgers. After losing consecutive World Series, the Dodgers have remained with their core of rising superstars, while making slight additions by adding bullpen depth in Joe Kelly and outfield depth and leadership in A.J Pollock. The Dodgers have also reunited with longtime veteran catcher Russell Martin. And while this trade may seem unorthodox, the Dodgers, in recent years, have had success turning veteran players who were seemingly on the decline into all-stars. So maybe they can turn around Russell’s late-career into one full of positive accolades. Will their new acquisitions, at the end of the day, be enough to get the Dodgers their evasive World Series trophy?
While the Dodgers don’t have any glaring weaknesses, they are constantly criticized for having a lackluster bullpen compared to other World Series contenders, and rightfully so. On paper, their back end of the bullpen doesn’t compare to any of the elite bullpens out there. Their mid-relief isn’t exactly what you would consider top-tier either.
As evidenced by the Dodgers’ bullpen shortcomings in the 2018 World Series, it’s a perfectly valid argument to blame their losses on the bullpen. However, when the offense is almost nonexistent, it makes the relievers’ job multiple times more difficult to be comfortable, and subsequently, their troubles begin.
On the contrary, the Dodgers’ bullpen performance in the 2017 World Series was not exactly masterful but they were just on par with the Houston Astros’ bullpen as they combined for an ERA of 3.57 and a WHIP of 1.22 compared to the Astros bullpen ERA of 5.86 and WHIP of 1.19. Since the 2017 World Series went for seven games compared to last year’s five-game series, it’s easy to say that the bullpen helped the Dodgers go farther into the series. The most noteworthy difference between the bullpen in both World Series was the loss of Brandon Morrow; however, despite his monstrous season in 2017, he didn’t exactly perform to the standards he set, pitching 5.1 innings and allowing eight hits and five runs. That is to say that you can’t attribute his presence to the bullpen as the difference between their decent bullpen showing in 2017 and their subpar showing in 2018.
In hopes of adding bullpen versatility and depth, the Dodgers acquired Kelly, as we all saw how magnificent he can perform under the bright lights. And quite frankly, that’s all the Dodgers need to have a chance in contention for a World Series trophy. Along with high expectations of Kelly, the Dodgers are expecting 2016 National League Rookie of the Year Corey Seager to have a bounceback season after being absent last year.
Ultimately, the Dodgers are one of the most well-rounded teams in baseball who, without a doubt, have the potential to make it to the big stage for the third year in a row. Since the Dodgers’ front office is known to make mid-season transactions to propel them towards playoff contention, don’t be surprised to see them make more acquisitions in the coming weeks, but they’ve made it public that they are confident where they are at currently, and they very well should be confident in their current position.