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How Do the Dodgers Stack Up Against Baseball’s Superteams?

Dodgers
Oct 31, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks at a press conference before game six of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Astros. Cubs. Dodgers. Indians. Red Sox. Yankees.

It remains likely that either of these six teams will be parading this fall and will be dawned as World Series champions. FiveThirtyEight gives these six teams a 82 percent chance of winning the 2018 Fall Classic, in comparison to an 18 percent chance for the other 24 teams in the Major Leagues.

Falling into this category among the best teams in the sport, the Dodgers are obviously one of the best teams in baseball. But where do they rank among these superteams?

The Offense

Team Games Runs Home Runs Batting Average On-Base Percentage Slugging OPS+
  1. Red Sox
114 610 154 .269 .336 .459 111
2. Yankees 112 567 179 .252 .330 .452 109
3. Astros 115 569 147 .256 .330 .430 113
4. Indians 112 572 158 .258 .329 .444 104
5. Dodgers 114 541 155 .243 .325 .427 102
6. Cubs 113 565 121 .267 .345 .426 102

Playing in the National League, the Dodgers offensive numbers do not match up with the powers in the American League. The Dodgers 102 OPS+ leads the NL but ranks eighth in all of baseball.

The Competition

Teams like the Red Sox (J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts: combined .334 batting average, 60 home runs), Yankees (Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton: combined .281 batting average, 52 home runs) and the Indians (Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor: combined .296 batting average, 61 home runs) have legitimate dynamic duos.

The Astros have the edge over the Indians because of their competition and ballpark factor. The Astros have the highest OPS+, which is ballpark adjusted, in all of baseball. They have also played well, despite having George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Brian McCann on the disabled list.

The Indians also play in the AL Central, which is the least competitive division in the league in terms of opponent pitching. The four other teams in their division rank in the bottom half in ERA, ERA+ and WHIP.

The Dodgers

Although the Dodgers do not have the offensive star power of the AL superpowers, they do not fall far behind. Their additions of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier have the Dodgers trending in the right direction.

They have a deep lineup with eight players who have double-digit home run totals for the Dodgers this year. This does not include their new additions, who each hit over 10 home runs with their previous ball clubs this year. This list also does not include Justin Turner, who has spent a large chunk of the season on the disabled list.

Los Angeles maintains a slight edge over the Cubs, based on their depth and performance thus far. The Cubs also do not have a timetable for Kris Bryant’s return from the DL.

Starting Pitching

Team Starting Pitching ERA Innings Pitched Home Runs Allowed Walks Strikeouts Opponents’ Batting Average Against WHIP
  1. Astros
2.99 708 73 219 821 .211 1.08
2. Indians 3.40 703.1 85 173 735 .240 1.15
3. Dodgers 3.35 612.1 73 157 646 .235 1.15
4. Red Sox 3.49 657.2 79 201 697 .232 1.18
5. Cubs 4.04 607 80 274 510 .248 1.38
6. Yankees 4.02 608.1 84 199 608 .239 1.24

The Competition

There is no debating the Astros have the best starting rotation in all of baseball. Their starting pitchers have stayed healthy all year, producing a sub-3.00 ERA as a unit.

The competition lies among the Dodgers, Indians and Red Sox for the second best rotation among the superteams. The Indians get the edge because of their starters’ ability to rack up innings. Both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer have pitched like aces all year, with Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger performing as top-tier middle-of-the-rotation arms.

Although they are ranked fourth, the Red Sox have an elite rotation with Chris Sale at the top. Sale leads the AL with a 2.04 ERA. Behind him, the Red Sox have former Cy Young Award winners David Price and Rick Porcello. They also added Nathan Eovaldi, who has not allowed a run in 15 innings with Boston.

The Cubs get the slight edge over the Yankees, because of their acquisition of Cole Hamels. While the Yankees added J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn, Hamels has more experience in the postseason.

The Dodgers

The Dodgers rotation depth gives them the advantage over the Red Sox. Although their starters do not go deep into games, they keep the team in the ballgame. Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill have stayed healthy and have performed at a high level over the past month, and the bottom half of the rotation has continued to produce.

Dave Roberts can mix and match with Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu (when healthy) for the back-end of the rotation. Each pitcher has made at least five starts for Los Angeles and each has an ERA below 3.75.

Bullpen

Team Relievers ERA Saves Innings Pitched Home Runs Allowed Walks Strikeouts Opponents’ Batting Average Against WHIP
Yankees 3.11 33 402 41 146 514 .209 1.13
Astros 3.02 29 327.1 34 84 397 .211 1.03
Cubs 3.30 34 419.2 38 196 410 .223 1.29
Red Sox 3.38 36 375.2 34 148 401 .228 1.25
Dodgers 3.82 38 424 53 159 444 .230 1.24
Indians 4.93 28 305 55 99 289 .252 1.30

The Competition

Adding Zach Britton to an already dominant bullpen rewards the Yankees with the best relieving corps. The Astros, though, are not far behind. Their bullpen has not been needed as much because of their dominant rotation.

The Indians far and away have the worst bullpen. They added Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the Padres, but their relieving unit still has an ERA close to 5.00.

The Dodgers

The Dodgers fall to the five spot. The bullpen has been their biggest weakness and their only relief addition at the trade deadline was John Axford. In Axford’s first outing with Los Angeles, he allowed six runs, while retiring just one batter.

Dodger relievers have pitched better of late. Excluding the loss that Kike Hernandez took when he pitched in a 16-inning game, a Dodgers reliever has not lost a game since Kenley Jansen on July 14.

Defense

Team Defensive Efficiency Ratio Errors Fielding Percentage
1. Astros .711 49 .988
2. Cubs .708 69 .984
3. Red Sox .700 45 .987
4. Yankees .703 57 .986
5. Dodgers .697 66 .984
6. Indians .691 63 .984

Defensive metrics do not quite tell the whole story as to how well teams can defend. With that said, defensive efficiency ratio (DER) can give insight on how well teams turn batted balls into outs.

The Dodgers rank fifth in both DER and fielding percentage. Adding Machado and Dozier up the middle boosts the Dodgers in this category, with both players winning the Gold Glove Award in the past.

Overall

Team Record Run Differential
  1. Red Sox
80-34 +194
2. Astros 73-42 +202
3. Yankees 70-42 +130
4. Dodgers 63-51 +97
5. Cubs 66-47 +105
6. Indians 62-50 +109

Stacking up against the league’s best, the Dodgers take the four spot. Their acquisitions of Machado and Dozier place them as the best team in the National League. They do not possess the offensive overload or the overpowering pitching to put them above the Red Sox, Astros or Yankees.

The Red Sox are on pace to win 113 games, the Astros have a chance to set a record for most strikeouts by a pitching staff and the Yankees may surpass the Mariners’ mark of 264 home runs set in 1997.

The Dodgers fall right below these three teams, though they have arguably the deepest team among the group. The Dodgers do not blow away their opponents, but they have a difficult schedule, playing in the same division as the Rockies and Diamondbacks. They are also in the midst of a 23-game stretch where they have only played teams with winning records.

The Cubs and Indians take the bottom two slots, although they do not trail by much. The Indians take the six spot because of the lack of competition in their division. While they have dominated their opponent, the second best team in their division is six games below .500.

Analysis

In most seasons, the Dodgers, who have 14 players on their 40-man roster who have been all-stars, would be deemed as the greatest threat in the sport. In the age of superteams though, they are the fourth most threatening team. Even as defending NL Champions that have a better roster in 2018, the Astros, Cubs, Indians, Red Sox and Yankees each improved on their respective weaknesses since last year. While the Dodgers will not face any of these teams again in the regular season, they have a chance to go head-to-head with these superteams in October.

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Written by Arthur Cribbs

Arthur Cribbs is a journalism student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. He is a lifelong Dodgers fan and when he is not at school, he resides in Los Angeles.

5 Comments

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  1. The analysis does not examine strikeouts. A K in the books, among other things: does not score a run,;does not advance any runners; is a critical out; is a potential rally killer; adds to the confidence of the pitcher. Last night against Oakland eleven strikeouts and thirteen LOBs so strikeouts made a major contribution to the loss. It does no good having a runner on third and a strikeout recorded for out number two to then see the next batter retired on a long fly ball How do those top contenders stack up re Ks v the Dodgers? Hits don’t count for much if a K leaves them in scoring position

    • That’s a good point, Jim. The Dodgers have struck out 1011 times this year, which ranks eighth in all of baseball. The only superteam that strikes out more is the Yankees, who have gone down swinging 1016 times. With runners in scoring position, the Dodgers have struck out 234 times. The Yankees and Cubs are the only superteams with greater figures, at 250 and 273, respectively.

  2. Thanks for this research and sharing the information. As you noted, the Dodgers biggest weakness all year is their bullpen, which I have criticized continually and asked management to remedy, but those two overpaid “suits” fail to do so.
    Axford is just the latest example of their stupidity and failure.

    How many games has the bullpen lost and how many leads have they given up?

    • Thank you, Jim. I calculated 23 losses for the bullpen and 9 games where they blew the save but picked up the victory. To the relievers defense, they can sometimes be under appreciated. I found 41 games where they did not allow a run; 32 of those games resulted in a Dodgers victory.

  3. Thanks again for your research. So, the bullpen has lost 23 games, (and 9 blown saves , which could have been losses,) equaling 32 times they did not do their job, which is too many, in my opinion, even counting the 41 times they allowed no runs.
    A record of 41and 32 is not going to get us to the postseason.

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