Even when the Los Angeles Dodgers were trailing the San Francisco Giants in the entertaining National League West Division race during the 2021 season, they were viewed as the team to beat heading into the postseason and the popular choice among those making MLB picks.
The prospect of topping a team able to call upon starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler multiple times during a playoff series made the Dodgers a legitimate threat to become the first team to repeat as World Series champions since the New York Yankees won three titles in a row from 1998 to 2000.
Why the Dodgers Could Win it all
When all the pieces are in place, the Dodgers’ pitching staff is downright frightening.
Clayton Kershaw is set to return from injury on Sunday and Andrew Heaney could also be back soon. Kershaw, a future Hall of Famer, knows how to get it done in the postseason. Walker Buehler isn’t off to the best start but he would be the unquestioned ace on most teams.
ICYMI yesterday, Gil Hodges’ No. 14 is set to be retired by the Dodgers in a pregame ceremony on June 4. Clayton Kershaw also provided an injury update on his back. https://t.co/kYSfEy7XOs
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) May 27, 2022
The unheralded duo of Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson are a combined 14-0 and Julio Urias was a 20-game winner a year ago. It will be hard for a team to match that starting pitching depth.
Craig Kimbrel was brought in to be the closer. If he rediscovers his previous form, the pitching staff becomes all the more daunting.
The Dodgers are led offensively by Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Justin Turner, Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger. All five are previous World Series champions. Betts (+310) is closing the gap on San Diego’s Manny Machado in the National League Most Valuable Player race and will be somebody to keep an eye on for those who bet online.
Why the Dodgers Could Fall Short
Kershaw is 34 years old and has already been sidelined by injury this season. Buehler has been solid but hardly an ace so far this season and the bullpen hasn’t pitched up to its potential.
Justin Turner, Bellinger and Max Muncy have not been getting it done offensively while Freeman has slowed down after a fast start in his first season with the Dodgers.
One of the biggest concerns is what happens if the Dodgers don’t get the No. 1 seed. The New York Mets and Dodgers are separated by percentage points in the race for the top seed. That could result in Los Angeles having a playoff showdown with division rival San Diego, one of the teams with a pitching staff that could go strike for strike with the Dodgers.
Los Angeles seemed worn out after surviving a best-of-five game series with division rival San Francisco last year and wilted against the Atlanta Braves, who were listed as a significant underdog according to MLB lines.
Teams that Could Derail the Dodgers
New York Yankees (+600 to win the World Series): New York has the best record in baseball. Nestor Cortes added another elite arm to the starting rotation and, when healthy, the Yankees lineup can be rather intimidating. led by current MLB home run leader Aaron Judge.
New York Mets (+700 to win the World Series): The Mets have the best record in the National League and ace Jacob deGrom has yet to throw a pitch yet. With the other pitchers thriving while deGrom gets healthy, the Mets could be a tough out in a playoff series.
Injuries to Pete Alonso and Starling Marte could hurt the Mets in the short term, but they should be around for the postseason.
San Diego Padres (+1400 to win the World Series): Fernando Tatis Jr. would probably have been among the favorites with those who bet online in the National League Most Valuable Player race had he been healthy. He will be back before too much longer to add star power to an already talented Padres team. There are six starting pitchers who could take over in a postseason series while the trade for closer Taylor Rogers has made a huge difference.
Milwaukee Brewers (+1200 to win the World Series): Any team that has reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes to go with Brandon Woodruff and Eric Lauer in the starting rotation should not be taken lightly. Josh Hader is an elite closer as well.
Milwaukee has fallen short in the postseason before. Will that continue to be the case?
Houston Astros (+700 to win the World Series): Houston could go into cruise control and still roll to the American League West Division title. Justin Verlander shows little sign of slowing down.
While many of the offensive stars have moved on, Jose Altuve is still there and he knows what it takes to win it all. Add in rising stars Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Pena and this is a team capable of making a postseason run.
Toronto Blue Jays (+900 to win the World Series): A lineup with Vlad Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman would not be fun to deal with in the World Series.
Alex Manoah is emerging into an elite starter. If he starts to get some help from the other starters, watch out.