On the one hand, 12 Dodger teams have won more of their first 91 games than the 2021 Dodgers have. On the other hand, only one of those 12 teams won a World Series, so it’s not a significant measuring stick.
More to my point, while it’s easy to be disappointed that the ’21 Dodgers haven’t matched the pace of the ’20 Dodgers or the ’21 San Francisco Giants, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this year’s Dodgers have excelled. Playing .615 ball heading into the All-Star Break is no small accomplishment.
In a sense, the question is to pick your poison. Is it better for your postseason dreams to be a 47-40 team with a four-game lead in your division like the New York Mets, or a 56-35 team with a two-game deficit like the Dodgers? Would you rather be a better team but face a higher chance of Let them eat wild card?
Though Jacob deGrom does affect the debate, I think I’d take my chances with the better team. Nevertheless, things are up in the air.
While the Giants have clearly earned respect this year, are they really a .640 ballclub? Or let’s put this another way: If it is going to win the National League West, should San Francisco have built up a greater advantage against a Dodger team that has lost Dustin May for all but 23 innings, gotten four homers apiece from Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger and put more than 20 different players on the injured list overall.
This Dodger team is on a 100-win pace despite devoting 235 at-bats to Edwin Ríos, Sheldon Neuse, Luke Raley, DJ Peters, Yoshi Tsutsugo and Steven Souza Jr. and getting 200 outs in return. (And only a few small handfuls of walks or extra-base hits to go with them.)
This Dodger team is on a 100-win pace despite a defense that just hasn’t seemed quite right for long stretches at a time. By one FanGraphs measure, the Dodgers are 28th out of 30 teams in fielding.
Look, I know the Giants have had things go wrong for them this year and that it hasn’t all been yellow moons, orange stars, pink hearts and green clovers. And don’t forget, there’s that other San team, the Diegos, that despite being in third place now might well remain the biggest threat of all.
But we can still respect that the Dodgers have the second-best record in baseball despite not really being at their best.
So is the best still to come?
The biggest challenge for Los Angeles will to be to fill the hole in their starting rotation left by their calculated gamble gone horribly awry. A minor-leaguer like Josiah Gray could make a more of a difference than some people realize, but it still might involve digging into the farm system to make a trade.
I don’t miss Trevor Bauer, but it will probably take at least two players from within the organization to replace him, either to take over his innings load or to acquire a replacement.
The 2021 Dodgers are a very good team. They might be the best team in the major leagues, and the best bet to win the World Series. But despite those perhaps unmatched credentials, there is genuine suspense whether they will play more than one game in October.