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The Dodgers’ Dominance Reveals Their Core Strengths

Noel M. Vazquez - Getty Images

The Dodgers’ potent, balanced hitting and pitching has the team poised to have a historic season.

It was no secret at the start of the year that the Los Angeles Dodgers were the favorites to win the NL West. However, despite their success in the regular season, they have failed to win a World Series in 29 years. And Vegas odds put the over/under at 91.5 games for the regular season. They are on pace for 114 wins.

The Dodgers are defying the Vegas odds and are poised to be the favorite for the 2017 World Series.

Their recent dominance is no fluke. The Dodgers had the best 50-game span in MLB history. They are 43-7 during this time, averaging a whopping 5.5 runs a game, which is easily the best in the league over that time span. But the Dodgers have shown the ability to accomplish these type of long winning streaks before.

In 2013, the Dodgers also had another extended winning streak in the summer. From June 22 to August 17, the Dodgers went 42-8. Compared to their 2017 offensive numbers though, there is a significant difference in the amount of home runs:

2013: .286/.344/.427, 44 HRs, 4.88 runs/game

2017: .269/.356/.508, 96 HRs, 5.50 runs/game 

In the same time span, the Dodgers this season show that they have much more firepower than they did in 2013. 

Three main Dodgers players stand out as the key components to the Dodgers’ recent power surge: Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, and Corey Seager. Taylor’s offensive value is of particular note, considering the fact that he started the season in Triple-A after a tumultuous tenure with the Mariners.

As of late, Bellinger has been on fire, hitting five home runs in his last eight games, including this one off of Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke:


Although I have already said that Bellinger is a star in the making, he is one of the main forces behind the Dodgers’ success during their 50-game run. When looking at WPA (win probability added), an aggregate measure that calculates how much a player improves his team’s probability of winning, Bellinger ranks 10th in the Major League. He also has a 3.0 WPA. During this stretch, he has also become known for his late-game heroics via the home run.  

ESPN notes that Bellinger has hit 16 of his home runs in the sixth inning or later, which is second only to Toronto’s Justin Smoak. Bellinger has also done very well against off-speed pitches with 17 of his four baggers coming from sliders, curveballs, and changeups, a total that is second only to Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas.

Bellinger’s success at the plate has been well-documented this season, but the biggest surprise that the Dodgers got was that Chris Taylor became a consistently great hitter:

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It is safe to say now that the Seattle Mariners gave up on him too soon when they traded him last year for Zach Lee. Although Taylor had no outfield experience prior to this year, he has taken advantage of the opportunity, hitting .314/.389/.559 with 14 home runs, which isn’t bad for a guy the Dodgers had low expectations for.

As for the Dodgers starting shortstop, Corey Seager just continues to keep getting better. He ranks 12th in baseball in WPA, right behind Taylor and Bellinger. In June before the Dodgers went on their run, Seager was hitting a pedestrian .255. However, Seager saw improvement at the plate in July, and his spray chart reveals a change in batted balls.

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As the spray chart shows, Seager has seen more success offensively when he pulls the ball. From a mechanical standpoint, this suggests that he is allowing the pitches to travel deeper before swinging at them. Since June 11, and especially in July when the Dodgers went on their historic streak, he’s batted .350/.417/.643, and more of his power has gone to the right side of the field.


The importance of Bellinger, Taylor, and Seager should not be overstated. The offensive contributions from the three of them, not to mention current National League Batting Champion Justin Turner, is a major reason for their recent winning streak. Their historic 50-game run concluded with the acquisition of top starting pitcher Yu Darvish from the Rangers. Despite struggling this year and especially in his last start, the early returns were great for the Dodgers. Darvish’s debut in Dodgers blue was magnificent; he threw six shutout innings, including a five-pitch sixth inning.

Even with Clayton Kershaw out and concerns about Alex Wood and his declining velocity, the Dodgers are excelling with their pitching. Their overall numbers this season suggest that, despite their pitchers going to the disabled list 34 times this season, they are on pace to have a historically great pitching season.

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When park factors, FIP, and xFIP are taken into account, their ERA is the fourth best since 1920. They are third in strikeouts behind Cleveland and Houston, and they have a 27.4% hard-hit rate allowed, which is the best in baseball by nearly four percent. 

The Dodgers are also succeeding at inducing the highest pop-up rate in baseball, which translates to easy outs.

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California baseball fans should be excited about where the Dodgers are heading. Throughout their run this season, the Dodgers have displayed a balanced attack of power hitting and pitching that will make it difficult for teams in October to beat them in a playoff series.

It is a great time for Dodger baseball.


***All data has been retrieved from ESPN.com, Baseball-Reference.com, and FanGraphs.com, unless otherwise noted.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

SQuiz
When was the last time the Dodgers won the World Series?
Created 8/12/17
  1. 1989
  2. 1988
  3. 1979
  4. 1991

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