Thursday, October 05, 2023

On the Dodgers' 2023 Playoffs

There's obviously a lot of stress around the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2023 playoff run, which starts Saturday against a surprising opponent in the Arizona Diamondbacks, who dispatched the favored Milwaukee Brewers with two straight come-from-behind victories to sweep the best-of-three Wild Card series.

The Diamondbacks play a fast and athletic style of baseball that is basically the anti-Max Muncy, finishing the season in second place (84-78) and earning the final NL Wild Card (and playoff) spot. And though they went only 1-for-10 with RISP in Game 1 against the Brewers, and were caught stealing twice in their four attempts, they rode a bevy of relievers in the first game before deploying starter Zac Gallen (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 Ks and 3 BB) for a more conventional win in the second game (when they went 3-for-5 with RISP).

Leadoff hitter and ROY candidate Corbin Carroll batted .571 with a 1.810 OPS in the series, and cleanup hitter Christian Walker mashed his way to a .375 BA. The Diamondbacks look potent, and they still have starter Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29 ERA in the regular season) primed and ready to go.

Sure, the Dodgers were 8-5 against Arizona this season--but we were 5-1 against the Brewers. I'm a little concerned here to be facing Arizona in the NLDS.

But then again, we can't forget that the Dodgers--after an off-season in which they lost Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, and effectively Gavin Lux--shouldn't even be in the playoffs in the first place. Our pitching rotation was a disaster, with losses of Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias; the failed Noah Syndergaard experiment; and the inability of Walker Buehler to rejoin the team this year. Even our Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw--who leads the Dodgers in IP this year with a puny 131.2 IP (apparently this is one of the lowest IP numbers ever for a player leading his team)--spent much of the year on the IL.

This was supposed to be the Dodgers' rebuilding year. Many predicted we wouldn't even compete.

The big-spending Padres were picked by some to win the 2023 World Series.

And instead, the Dodgers--languishing in third place (four games back) in mid-June, took the divisional lead on July 14 and never looked back, eventually winning the NL West by 16 games. It marked the Dodgers' fourth consecutive full-season with the Dodgers winning at least 100 games (and three in a row, accounting for the pandemic-shortened year).

This 2023 season is already absolutely amazing.

Our bullpen was one of the worst in the majors at the All-Star Break, and somehow that crew (augmented by Joe Kelly) has locked it down since August. We even eked a 7-2 record out of midseason pickup Lance Lynn (who is not easy to pick up, literally), who gave up more home runs this year than any other player in the major leagues.

Even our light-hitting shortstop, Miguel Rojas, started hitting home runs late in the season. Talk about unexpected.

So sure, the scrappy and full-of-momentum Diamondbacks will be a big test for us. And should we be lucky enough to advance, the Braves look unstoppable this year (as they lead fangraphs' World Series forecasts by a healthy projection), and last year's NL Champion Phillies look just as hot and hungry as they were last year.

But I'm just impressed that we are even here in the playoffs at all. Credit to Andrew Friedman for constructing this roster, and to Dave Roberts for getting the most out of this year's crew.

If we can advance, I'll be stoked.

But even if we can't--this year was one for the ages, and worthy of celebration.


QuadSevens said...

Who made these LDS schedules? Why are there 3 off days for a best of 5 series? That doesn't seem to be an advantage for the top seeds. It gives the Wild Card seeds extra days off to recover.

Playoffs need to start already.