A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked dead in the water. Their star shortstop Corey Seager was set to miss the remainder of the season with Tommy John surgery, and they had just been swept by the lowly Cincinnati Reds. Since then, the Blue Crew has come alive while the rest of their division has struggled. All of the sudden, the Dodgers are right back in the thick of the pennant race.
In addition to the Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies also made last fall’s playoffs. The race for the NL West crown was expected to be one of the most exciting contests of the summer. Instead, 2018 has seen the division marred by mediocrity and injuries. As things stand now, the winner will be the division’s lone representative this postseason.
LA’s early struggles should have bought their rivals all of the breathing room they needed; the Dodgers were eight games back on Mother’s Day. Since then, they have gained 4.5 games, and the standings are getting tight.
That gap could soon get even smaller. Justin Turner is still finding his groove after returning from a wrist issue. Clayton Kershaw is due back in the rotation this week after a bout of biceps tendinitis. Rich Hill will eventually return once he gets his blisters under control. Not to mention, Cody Bellinger is bound to break out of his season-long slump (.237/.302/.443, eight home runs) at some point.
Based on Baseball Reference’s Pythagorean winning percentage, the Dodgers should already have four more wins than they do. If that were the case, they would currently be leading the division. That checks out if you look at run differential. The Dodgers have scored 22 more runs than they have allowed, the best mark in the West and the best of any sub-.500 team in the league. It’s only a matter of time before that performance translates into real world wins.
There is significant pressure on this Dodgers team. The organization has become one of the league’s perennial big spenders, and yet they have no World Series titles lately to show for it. Their “window” to win could be open for a few more years, but the future can be unpredictable. If ownership thinks the 2018 team has the best shot at a championship, they won’t hesitate to bring in reinforcements.
Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado is the first name out of anyone’s mouth when discussing possible trades. The three-time all-star is almost guaranteed to move at some point this summer. The O’s have struggled and will look to cash in on one of hottest hitter’s in the league during his final season of team control. Given the Dodgers hole at shortstop, they could be good fit for Machado.
Los Angeles is in an enviable position when it comes to trade talks. According to MLB Pipeline, they have the 10th-best farm system in the league, including five top 100 players plus rookie sensation Walker Buehler. Several of the other top 10 clubs are rebuilders like the Padres, White Sox, Athletics and Reds. Others are contenders that may or may not be ready to part with some of their talented youngsters. The point is that should the front office identify a player that could make the difference, they have prospects to make a deal happen.
It hasn’t been the smoothest of seasons in La La Land. The team struggled early and injuries seemed destined to sink their attempts to defend the National League title. But a lackluster division kept them within striking distance. Things have finally started to break their way, and they now have a shot at steamrolling the competition and cruising into the playoffs for yet another year.