April 2, 2017
Overlooking the downtown Los Angeles metropolis, Chavez Ravine has splendor all around it. From Elysian Park in the North, to the majesty of the San Gabriel Mountains past the batters eye, beauty abounds—and that’s to say nothing of the gorgeous A-listers inside the stadium. However, there is one piece of glory that this wondrous park does not have: a World Series banner that isn’t yellowing with age.
Now, on the dawn of the 2017 season, 30 long years have passed in Dodgers Stadium, each with a growing sense of urgency to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Southern California like it had been so many times before. The ’50s and ’60s were the golden years in LA, and just about everyone can feel the glory returning. That golden trophy is the Dodgers’ to take, should they choose. The reasons are boundless, the enemy is in Chicago, and the 30-year drought will finally end. Breaking down the team, you can easily see Dodger Blue painted all over September.
- Clayton Kershaw is absurdly good: In an injury shortened 2016, Kershaw struck out 172 of his 544 batters faced. That’s 31.6% of MAJOR LEAGUE HITTERS striking out. Yu Darvish (31.7%) was one of two pitchers with a better rate. With this curve, it’s easy to see why. The other pitcher with a better rate was sadly taken from us – Jose Fernandez (34.3%).
To go with that strikeout rate, Kershaw walked 11 batters last year. Francisco Liriano, on the other hand, issued 13 walks between June 17th and June 27th…and still got a team to purposefully trade for him.
Kershaw has incredible movement on his pitches already, and there have been talks that he’s getting more creative with his selection, so his stuff will be even more devastating. If he can stay healthy, the Dodgers have one of the best pitchers in baseball history pitching every 5 days.
- Rich Hill’s resurgence will continue: The blisters are gone—and that spells trouble for hitters in the NL West this year. In 2016, Hills curveball had a WRC+ of 51 (weighted runs created compared to the rest of the league, average=100, and you want to be low). That means his curve gives us 2x better results than league average. In a league where being 10% better than someone can mean millions of dollars, try being 196% better. Rich Hill will give 100 good innings, extrapolated out to about 8-10 wins.
- The rest of the ridiculously good pitching staff: Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, Trevor Oaks, Bud Norris, Julio Urias, Alex Wood, Hyun-Jin Ryun, Brandon McCarthy, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling…
That’s TEN pitchers not named Hill or Kershaw that are Major League caliber starters and can each offer 6-10 wins, given the opportunity. No matter who they decide to throw out there, expect a back-of-rotation to be as good as the other two So-Cal teams’ fronts.
- Corey Seager for MVP: Seager was still considered a rookie last year at the age of 22. On a roster where the average age was nearly 29, he stood out as a man among boys with his WRC+ of 137. Contrary to pitchers, batters want their WRC+ to be high, and being 37% better than the typical hitter speaks volumes. Outside of his bat, and taking in every aspect of the game, Seager was considered the 5th best non-pitcher in the game…at 22. He’s only getting better, folks. Expect an MVP season out of him, and for him to contribute game after game at an elite level.
- Yasiel Puig will finally be himself again: Puig is one of the most gifted players, athletically speaking, to ever play the game. His preparedness has long been an issue and the Dodgers sent him to AAA Oklahoma City to fix those issues for the entirety of August. Prior to the demotion, he was only walking 6% of the time, manufacturing a .260 / .320 / .386 line. His month in the Sooner State did wonders for his patience, raising his walk rate to nearly 10%. Pitchers had to start pitching him down the plate more, and line moved up to .281 / .338 / .561 in response. His power was back, eye was improving, and athleticism never ceased. Puig will be a force yet again, and will slowly crawl his way back to the heart of the order.
- Down on the farm: If all goes well, the Dodgers will have such an insurmountable lead that the second half of the season will be a breeze. Injuries happen, and you can’t guarantee a perfect season. You can however be prepared with a contingency plan, and the Dodgers have that. Keith Law has the Dodgers ranked as the 5th best system in baseball, with the likes of Cody Bellinger (1B/OF), Yadier Alvarez (P), Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles (both OF). All four of those guys are considered top flight talent and they (with about 15 other gems) can be used one of two ways:
- Player A gets injured → Insert Minor League Star → Win
- Player A gets injured → Trade Minor League Star for Major League Star → Win
It seems those flow charts both end with the same result—
The rain will be coming down at Chavez Ravine, because the drought is over.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will be the 2017 Major League Baseball World Series Champions.