Unbelievable, unsustainable and potentially relatively meaningless. These are among the many words and phrases being used to describe what we have been witnessing on the baseball diamond this season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are making a statement that they are not just the best team in baseball this season (which their record shows they are) but in the process of fashioning a historic season.
At 79-32 the Dodgers are on pace to win 115 regular season games. That pace is confirmed by Bill James’ sabermetric Pythagorean Theorem concept. Through Sunday the Dodgers have outscored their opposition 569 to 365. That net runs differential of +204 works out to an average of +1.84 runs per game!
They’ve gone 43-7 in their last 50 games and 24-3 since July 4 (with all three losses to Atlanta, a sub-.500 team), becoming just the fourth MLB team to win 43 or more games over a 50 game stretch and the first since the 1912 New York Giants.
The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers are on the verge of doing something very, very special, but… unless they win the World Series their regular season accomplishments, while impressive and historically noteworthy, will mean little, or at least result in a huge sense of emptiness as to what could or should have been.
Remember the 2007 New England Patriots, the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors? Each of those teams set records for the most wins in their respective sports but could not close the deal.
The Patriots, on the verge of an unprecedented 19-0 perfect season, lost in the Super Bowl.
The Warriors, setting the record of 73 regular season wins, also made it to the last game of the season but lost to Cleveland in Game7 of the NBA Finals.
The Mariners, who tied the record of 116 wins set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs, failed to even make the World Series, losing to the New York Yankees in the ALCS. To be fair, the Mariners played 162 games, losing 46. The 1906 Cubs played only 152 games, losing only 36 games and thus holding the record for the best regular season winning percentage in MLB history.
At least the Warriors surrounded their Championship loss in their record setting season with an NBA title the season before and the season after. And the Patriots won three Super Bowl titles in the six seasons before 2007 and two more in the nine seasons since.
The Dodgers have no World Series appearances in nearly three decades after last making it to the Fall Classic in 1988. Most often remembered for pinch hitter Kirk Gibson’s dramatic Game 1 winning walk-off Grand Slam off of Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley, the Dodgers defeated the Athletics 4 games to 1.
With a talented roster that already included likely Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger and multiple time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers got even stronger when they made a trade with Texas for starting pitcher Yu Darvish. Kershaw was placed on the DL a week before the trading deadline with a lower back strain and will not be rushed back into action. That is the luxury of being the Dodgers.
The Dodgers have made ten Playoff appearances since 1988 and this season will be their fifth straight trip to the Playoffs. The last four seasons have resulted in two eliminations in the Divisional Series and two eliminations in the League Championship Series.
The pressure is clearly on LA to cap what has already been an outstanding season to win the World Series, especially following four straight seasons that ended in disappointment. But October is still two months away.
As expected, the Dodgers are the prohibitive favorites to win the Series with 2-1 odds at the Westgate and even money to win the NL pennant.
No other team has World Series odds of less than 6-1, with Houston and Washington held at those odds followed by Boston and the Cubs at 7-1, Cleveland at 8-1, the Yankees at 10-1, Arizona at 18-1 and both Colorado and Kansas City at 20-1. No other team is less than 40-1.
Behind the Dodgers to win the NL Pennant are Washington (3-1), the Cubs (7-2), Arizona (9-1) and Colorado (10-1). Milwaukee is 25-1.
Houston is the 2-1 favorite to win the AL pennant followed by Boston (3-1), Cleveland (7-1), the Yankees (4-1) and Kansas City (10-1). With major concerns about their starting pitching (and their bullpen to an extent) the Astros could be vulnerable to an early Playoffs exit.
If so, this could be a wide open American League; and whereas defending AL champion Cleveland has a very solid rotation and pitching staff, don’t throw out Seattle. The Mariners are 20-1 to win the AL pennant, started this week just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Cubs at D’backs
This is a quick rematch from last week when Arizona took 2 of 3 at Wrigley Field. Arizona has gotten the better overall starting pitching this season with Zack Greinke, Zack Godley and Robbie Ray all enjoying very fine seasons. Ray is likely to miss this series as he recovers from a concussion suffered in late July. The Cubs’ starting pitching has been inconsistent although Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and the recently acquired Jose Quintana have shown more consistency of late.
This series sets up nicely for plays on both Greinke and Godley if laying -140 or less against any Cubs starter. The Cubs are worth playing as underdogs of any price not facing Greinke or Godley. Look to play OVER 9 or lower in games not started by Greinke or Godley and UNDER 8.5 or higher in games started by either of that duo.
Red Sox at Yankees
The Yanks lead the series 6-3 and the UNDER is also 6-3. The Yanks strengthened their rotation with the acquisition of both Jaime Garcia and Sonny Gray, which compensates for the season-ending injury to Michael Pineda. Luis Severino is enjoying a breakout season and has been New York’s best, and most consistent, starter. Boston has the best starter in the series with likely Cy Young Award winner Chris Sale. But David Price is back on the DL. Drew Pomeranz has pitched well but Rick Porcello – last season’s AL Cy Young Award winner – has struggled all season.
Look to play OVER 8.5 or less in games not involving the Yanks’ Severino, Gray or CC Sabathia or Boston’s Sale. If Sale opposes any of that Yankees trio look to UNDER 7.5 or higher. Sale can be backed if favored by -160 or less against other than Gray, Sabathia or Severino and if priced at -130 or less against that trio. In other situations look to play either team as an underdog of +125 or more.
Pirates at Blue Jays
The Pirates have played better over the past month or so and their lineup can have success against a rather average Toronto pitching staff. The Pirates have a rather ordinary rotation as well. In fact, aside from Toronto’s Marcus Stroman and Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole neither rotation has a pitcher for whom you can make a strong case to support. Ivan Nova got off to a strong start for the Pirates but has not been sharp on the road over the past couple of months.
Back Toronto behind Stroman not facing Cole if laying -140 or less and similarly take Pittsburgh and Cole not opposing Stroman if laying no more than -125. In other matchups Toronto can be backed at -125 or less in a start by J. A. Happ or as home underdogs not facing Cole. The Pirates can be played as underdogs of +125 or more not opposing Stroman. Look to play UNDER 8 or higher if Cole faces Stroman or UNDER 9 or higher if only one of those two starters is involved. Otherwise, playing OVER 9 or lower if neither Cole nor Stroman starts.