Los Angeles Dodgers 2018 Season Preview
Ironically, it was former Dodgers’ great Jackie Robinson who once famously quipped: “Close don’t count in baseball; Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
Robinson’s modern predecessors, in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers, can certainly attest to that statement. After taking the eventual champion Houston Astros to seven games in the 2017 World Series, the Dodgers watched pitcher Yu Darvish surrender five runs in the first 1 2/3rds innings of the game, which would be all the Astros needed to clinch a 5-1 win and the World Series win.
Now, after making their first World Series appearance in almost two decades, how can the Los Angeles Dodgers make it back-to-back appearances?
It seems to be workin’ ok
Los Angeles went with an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” modus operandi in the offseason, with the vast majority of their 2017 roster coming back for their chance at a World Series reprieve.
Having the lowest ERA of any team in the Major Leagues last season, the Dodgers’ pitching rotation will once again be anchored by superstud Clayton Kershaw, followed by incumbents Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-jin Ryu. With four lefties in that rotation, it’s no wonder the Dodgers held right-handed batters to a slash line of .211/.265/.320 last year. In general, this group put up a 26.4% strikeout rate, along with a 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Solid as rock defensive infields
The Dodgers were considered to have one of the best defensive infields in baseball last year, and that looks like it could very much be the case again this year. First baseman Corey Bellinger clearly spent much of the spring inside of a weight room, as he came into spring training in great shape. Second baseman Logan Forsythe is a really good defender at second base.
Corey Seager had a great season as a hitter last year, and third baseman Justin Tucker had among the fewest strikeouts of any every day hitter in the Majors. Los Angeles was even able to keep veteran Chase Utley around, and his teammates were thrilled at that fact.
The question marks
If the team has any big question marks, it might be in the outfield. Joe Pederson is slated as the team’s opening day left fielder, but we shouldn’t forget that he’s a guy who was sent down to the minors at one point last season; the leash will be very thin for him this year.
Centerfield Chris Taylor had a breakout year in 2017, so the biggest question will be whether he builds on that, or regresses back to his collective .234/.289/.309 from prior to last year. Of course, there’s still Yasiel Puig, who remains one of the best hitters in the game.
Overall, expectations will be very high for this group, so the storyline for most of the year will be whether they will live up to those expectations. This is a team that won 104 games last year, and is the early favorite of oddsmakers to win the World Series in 2018.
Suffice to say, getting “close” won’t be good enough for the Dodgers this year.